What has been the result of settling this twelve-year fight, this series of on-again, off-again negotiations which almost became hopelessly snagged on the very eve of agreement? The settlement gives the green light to irrigate an area of almost 30 million acres in India and Pakistan. (The United States in its entirety possesses only 27 million acres of irrigated land.) The people who will receive the benefits - more food, more power, more water, and better flood control - total 47 million, a figure equal to the entire population of Italy.
Although India now has agreed to slow down its program for using the Indus waters to irrigate the Punjab and Rajasthan until a ten-year transitional period is over, it still will be gaining enormously in improving the livelihood of its people. And Pakistan, with outside help, can now look forward not only to a continued water supply but to the funds to build more irrigation canals and two large dams which will give it constant water and power, even in times of drought.
This international planned development will cost some $1.3 billion over the next decade. Almost half of this money is to be provided in loans and grants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, West Germany, and the World Bank itself.
There is hope that the Indus settlement will help to quiet tempers in the other disputes between India and Pakistan. After their formal signing ceremony in Karachi, Nehru and Ayub had a series of informal talks in various parts of Pakistan, examining these disputes. All of them stem from partition in 1947 and the mutual hostility between Muslim and Hindu.
Religious differences, which only festered before the British pulled out, exploded immediately afterward. In the midst of massacre on both sides, some nine million Hindu refugees poured into India from East and West Pakistan. Muslims similarly fled from India. Today there are 40 million Muslims living in suspicious insecurity in India and 10 million Hindus feeling just as unwelcome in Pakistan. One unsettled problem is the treatment of these minorities and a need to break down prejudices so that they may have the chance to earn a livelihood.
Another dispute centers around the settlement of intergovernmental debts, India and Pakistan having both fallen heir to British India's liabilities as well as its assets.
Still another involves the financial claims for the property the refugees were forced to leave behind. And even though this ledger is predominantly in favor of India, most Indians acknowledge that to collect claims from a country as poor as Pakistan is almost impossible.
The greatest remaining dispute lies in Kashmir. This jewel set on the sides of the Himalayas between northernmost India and northeast West Pakistan is the size of Idaho and has a population which is predominantly Muslim and a ruling group which is Hindu. Whatever the yearnings Kashmir might have to go it alone, these desires are not being assisted by the country's joint occupation by Pakistani and Indian troops.
Aside from the claims and counterclaims of which nation has transgressed, Kashmir, to Pakistan, means a land of oppressed and unliberated coreligionists. For India, the larger, the richer, and the more piously idealistic of the two, the claim to Kashmir secretly rests a bit uneasy on its conscience. But, until now, to give in to Pakistan would mean to acknowledge another religious state and to encourage India's Hindu extremists into another outcry against its 40-million Muslim minority.
But time, the Indus River, and a good many other factors may be healing these sores. The border crossing of refugees is now at a minimum. The treatment of minorities, on each side, has somewhat improved. There has been some murmuring about settling the intergovernmental debts. The disputed portions of India's 2300-mile border with East Pakistan were resolved last fall, and the disputed portions of its 1200-mile border with West Pakistan are just about resolved. Communist China now is a serious border threat to India. And Pakistan, even though it recognizes Peiping diplomatically, still regards all Communist nations as enemies.
Nehru and India, now that they have more reason to be assured of the United States's genuine respect for Indian nonalignment, simultaneously can be less fearful that United States military aid to Pakistan will end up on the wrong border. And very important, both India and Pakistan have huge economic development programs underway or about to start. Neither has as much money as it would like, to improve the welfare of its people. Any easing of the enormous military cost needed to protect their borders would prove welcome.
Kashmir unquestionably is a very large problem, an emotional problem. Should Nehru, for instance, suddenly decide to become magnanimous, any yielding in Kashmir might well bring about his political downfall.
Nevertheless, the settlement of the Indus and the easing of other disputes go far beyond the resolving of the "little pinpricks" which Nehru and Ayub agreed to look at in a brief meeting a year ago. And after their several days of quiet talks in Pakistan in September, the subcontinent now can at least hope for neighborliness in the future.