Since the partition of the Sub-continent in 1947, water has been a divisive issue between India and Pakistan. The Indus Water Treaty was created to lessen and manage any tensions that might arise from the use of the Indus River and its tributaries. Pakistan is highly reliant upon the water of the Indus and fears that India could use this to its strategic advantage as its headwaters pass totally through India. The treaty has been successful in preventing bilateral disputes from escalating and both parties continue to see value in maintaining it. Revisions are necessary, however, as the treaty does not adequately deal with contemporary issues, including increased population, climatic and environmental pressures. Such revisions are unlikely to occur in the near future, though, as India-Pakistan relations are too fragile for meaningful water governance reform to take place.
Key points :-
- The Indus Waters Treaty was signed on September 19, 1960 by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan.
- It was brokered by the World Bank.
- The treaty administers how river Indus and its tributaries that flow in both the countries will be utilised.
- According to the treaty, Beas, Ravi and Sutlej are to be governed by India, while, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are to be taken care by Pakistan
- However, since Indus flows from India, the country is allowed to use 20 per cent of its water for irrigation, power generation and transport purposes.
- A Permanent Indus Commission was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission solves disputes arising over water sharing
The Treaty also provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably.
Though Indus originates from Tibet, China has been kept out of the Treaty. If China decides to stop or change the flow of the river, it will affect both India and Pakistan
- Climate change is causing melting of ice in Tibetan plateau, which scientists believe will affect the river in future.
It maybe noted that both India and Pakistan are still at loggerheads over various issues since Partition, but there has been no fight over water after the Treaty was ratified.
Thus, even after four decades of the signing of the treaty, India has been able to develop only less than 15 per cent of the hydropower potential till now due to Pakistan’s objections to our projects.
Now, time has come for a fresh thinking(not because of uri attack but due to the demand of justice ) on the Indus Waters Treaty to take into account the apparent inequity in water allocation, the ambiguity in its clauses, etc. Though there is no exit option in the treaty, there is an option for review. Hence India should now take the lead to initiate discussions with the World Bank for a review of the treaty. In the meantime as there is no provision in the treaty to stop construction of the projects pending resolution of Pakistan’s objections, immediate action is needed to implement them.