Indus Water Treaty

  • IWT is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan.
  • It was brokered by the World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development).
  • The treaty deals with sharing of water of six rivers – Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum between the two countries.
  • It was signed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19, 1960.
  • As per treaty, control over three eastern rivers – Ravi, Beas and Sutlej was given to India. While control over three western rivers – Indus, Jhelum and Chenab was given to Pakistan.
  • It allows India to use only 20% of the water of Indus river, which flows through it first, for irrigation, power generation and transport. Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty.
  • 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 has survived India-Pakistan wars of 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil standoff besides Kashmir insurgency since 1990. It is most successful water treaty in world.

Why Indus River is important for Pakistan?
Around 65% of the Pakistan’s geographical area including entire Pakistan’s Punjab province is part of Indus basin. The water of Indus River is lifeline of Pakistan and is source of irrigation, hydro power and drinking water for millions of Pakistanis. If the water from rivers is stopped by India it can surely cut lifeline of Pakistan
Indian government had taken some decisions related to IWT in light of Uri attack:
  • No review or abrogation of the Indus Waters Treaty.
  • Decision to utilise water under India’s share to fullest.
  • Suspend talks on the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC), the dispute redressal mechanism until terrorism stops.
  • Review the 1987 suspension of the Tulbul navigation project that Pakistan had objected.
  • Build more run-of-the-river hydropower projects on western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) to exploit full potential.
  • Expedite construction of Pakal Dul, Sawalkot, Bursar dams in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Use 20% of river water allocated under treaty for Jammu and Kashmir farmers.
What are possible ramifications of this step?
  • China angle: China can do similar things with India
  • UN role: UN may oppose India’s action which are in violation of this treaty.
  • It would take years of work to build huge dams or reservoirs or canals to change the flow of water. This may also lead to floods in the valley
  • The decision of not giving water to Pakistan may further enrage the terror elements in the country, making them intensifying their attacks on India. Even the construction works for diverting the flow of water would be on the target of terrorists all the time
  • India at present enjoys a moral high ground because it respects all its treaties with the neighbouring countries. The decision to abrogate the treaty would make other smaller neighbours uneasy. Not only the neighbours would be distrustful of India, even the country would not be in a position to say anything if China also takes a similar move against it. The country may also earn the ire of China. Indus originates in China and if the country decides to divert the Indus, India would lose over 35% of its river water
Decisions after Pulwama attack:
  • India would fully utilise its share of unused water from rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej that has been flowing into Pakistan.
  • To utilise its full share of water, India would divert the water from the eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej) to the border states of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India has initiated the construction of a dam on the Ravi river, the Shahpur-Kandi project in Punjab.
  • The Ujh Multipurpose Project in Kathua district would store water for use in Jammu and Kashmir. River Ujh is the main tributary of river Ravi. The balance water would flow through 2nd Ravi-BEAS Link to provide water to other basin states.
Why India needs to stop the excess water flow?
  • This is of strategic importance to India, given that control over river water flow acts as a force multiplier during times of aggression.
  • India’s plans to fully utilize its share of water under the treaty. It assumes strategic importance against the backdrop of China developing the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the region.
  • India is also expediting other strategically important hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir, following the reorganization of the terror-hit state.
  • The Ravi, Beas and Sutlej have some tributaries whose water remains untapped because of geographical adversities and flows into Pakistan. For instance, the  Ujh river.
Related Questions:
  1. Present an account of the Indus Water Treaty and examine its ecological, economic and political implications in the context of changing bilateral relations. (UPSC Mains 2016)

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