Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Indus Water Treaty turns 60

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indus Water Treaty

Mains level : Reconsideration of IWT over cross border terrorism

September 19 this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan.

Tap to read more about Indus River System:

Drainage System | Part 3

Indus Waters Treaty, 1960

  • The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank signed in Karachi in 1960.
  • According to this agreement, control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers of India — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India
  • The control over the water flowing in three “western” rivers of India — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan
  • The treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. while laying down precise regulations for India to build projects
  • India has also been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through the run of the river (RoR) projects on the Western Rivers which, subject to specific criteria for design and operation is unrestricted.

Based on equitable water-sharing

  • Back in time, partitioning the Indus rivers system was inevitable after the Partition of India in 1947.
  • The sharing formula devised after prolonged negotiations sliced the Indus system into two halves.
  • Equitable it may have seemed, but the fact remained that India conceded 80.52 per cent of the aggregate water flows in the Indus system to Pakistan.
  • It also gave Rs 83 crore in pounds sterling to Pakistan to help build replacement canals from the western rivers. Such generosity is unusual of an upper riparian.
  • India conceded its upper riparian position on the western rivers for the complete rights on the eastern rivers. Water was critical for India’s development plans.

India plays resilient

  • That the treaty has remained “uninterrupted” is because India respects its signatory and values trans-boundary Rivers as an important connector in the region in terms of both diplomacy and economic prosperity.
  • There have been several instances of terror attacks which could have prompted India, within the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to withdraw from the IWT.
  • However, on each occasion, India chose not to do so.

Significance of the treaty

  • It is a treaty that is often cited as an example of the possibilities of peaceful coexistence that exist despite the troubled relationship.
  • Well-wishers of the treaty often dub it “uninterrupted and uninterruptible”.
  • The World Bank, which, as the third party, played a pivotal role in crafting the IWT, continues to take particular pride that the treaty functions.

Need for a rethink

  • The role of India, as a responsible upper riparian abiding by the provisions of the treaty, has been remarkable.
  • However, of late, India is under pressure to rethink the extent to which it can remain committed to the provisions, as its overall political relations with Pakistan becomes intractable.
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