International Relations

India notifies Pakistan of its intention to amend the 1960 Indus Water Treaty

India has announced its intention to amend the 62-year-old Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan.

Why did India issue a warning to Pakistan?

  • Unwanted disputes over Indian hydropower projects: India cited Pakistan’s unwillingness to settle disputes over the Kishenganga and Ratle hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Dragging arbitration: India objected to Pakistan’s “unilateral” decision to seek arbitration in The Hague.
  • A foul cry: Pakistan’s move to press the World Bank for the establishment of a Court of Arbitration ran counter to the World Bank’s pre-existing channel of dispute resolution through a “neutral expert” appointed by the World Bank.
  • Renegotiating the IWT: The decision to notify Pakistan is a significant step that could lead to the unravelling and renegotiation of the water-sharing treaty.

What is Pakistan’s beef?

  • Back in 2006, Pakistan objected to India’s construction of the 330 MW Kishenganga hydroelectric project on the Jhelum River.
  • It then opposed plans to build the 850 MW Ratle Hydroelectric Project on the Chenab River.
  • Given that the Jhelum and Chenab were “western tributaries,” India and Pakistan disagreed on whether the technical details of the hydel projects were in accordance with the treaty.

What exactly is the Indus Water Treaty (IWT)?

  • The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty negotiated by the World Bank and signed in Karachi in 1960.
  • This agreement granted India control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers in India: the Beas, the Ravi, and the Sutlej.
  • Pakistan was granted control over three “western” rivers in India: the Indus, the Chenab, and the Jhelum.

The foundation of the treaty

  • Water sharing on an equitable basis: Partitioning the Indus River System was unavoidable following India’s partition in 1947.
  • Empathizing with the Division: The sharing formula developed after lengthy negotiations divided the Indus system in half.

Why is India reconsidering this treaty?

  • Pakistan is heavily favoured: It may have appeared equitable, but India still gave Pakistan 80.52 percent of the aggregate water flows in the Indus system.
  • Unnecessarily generous: It also gave Pakistan Rs 83 crore in sterling to help build replacement canals from western rivers. Such generosity from an upper riparian is unusual.
  • Reclaiming riparian rights: In exchange for complete rights on the eastern rivers, India gave up its upper riparian position on the western rivers. The availability of water was critical to India’s development plans.

What rights were granted to India?

  • The treaty allowed India to use the water from western rivers for limited irrigation purposes.
  • Unrestricted commercial use: It granted power generation, domestic industrial, and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture, and so on.
  • It establishes precise regulations for the construction of any water or hydel project.
  • Addressing Pakistan’s concerns: The pact also grants Pakistan the right to object to designs of Indian hydroelectric projects on the western rivers.

The importance of the treaty

  • It is a treaty that is frequently cited as an example of the possibilities for peaceful coexistence that exist despite the troubled relationship.
  • It has survived numerous hostilities, including three major wars.
  • Most fruitful bilateral treaty: It is regarded internationally as an example of successful conflict resolution between two countries that were previously at odds.

Why has the treaty survived?

  • It is for India’s generosity on Pakistan for sharing waters from its own rivers.
  • Water freedom: India has refrained from weaponizing water. Pakistan cannot exist in the absence of this treaty.
  • Significant reliance Pak economy: The Indus and riparian rivers provide water for approximately 80% of Pakistan’s agriculture.
  • Floods and droughts will starve ordinary Pakistanis while their politicians continue to live in luxury.
  • Credibility of India: Backtracking on the treaty could harm India’s reputation as a trustworthy global partner who respects bilateral agreements.

Why should India rethink?

  • Terrorist blow: PM Modi’s words “Blood and water cannot flow together” are relevant.
  • A tit for tat: If India so desires, it can either flood or drought-starve Pakistan by refusing to sign this treaty.

The way forward

  • India’s role as a responsible upper riparian adhering to the treaty’s provisions has been remarkable.
  • However, India should reconsider or renegotiate this treaty.
  • Terrorism affects Indians in the same way that water affects ordinary Pakistanis.
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