Indus Water Treaty: Background
The Indus Water Treaty is a water sharing treaty mutually entered into by India and Pakistan way back in the year 1960. The treaty was signed by the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and then President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.
As per this agreement, the control over the water flow in three Eastern rivers of India, i.e. the Beas, the Ravi and the Satluj was given to India while the control of the three Western flowing rivers i.e. the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan.
The Issue: Apple of Discord.
The provisions of the treaty itself is an apple of discord. The dispute concerns the 330MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project that India is building on the Neelum River and the 850 MW Ratle hydroelectric plant on Chenab River.
The provisions of the Treaty states that the water from the eastern rivers is exclusively for use in India before they enter Pakistan whereas the water from the Western rivers are to be exclusively used by Pakistan after the permitted uses in India. As a result of this provision the partition of rivers took place rather than sharing of their waters.
India-Pakistan Disputes relating to Indus: Timeline
1948- India cuts off supply in most canals that went to Pakistan.
1951- Pakistan accuses India of cutting water to many of its villages.
1954- World Bank comes up with a water sharing formula for both the parties.
1960- Indus Water Treaty signed.
1970’s - India starts building hydropower projects in Kashmir. Pakistan raises concern over it.
1984- Pakistan raises concern for building Tulbul barrage on Jhelum. India stops it unilaterally.
2007- Pakistan raises concern over Kishanganga hydroelectric project
2008- Lashkar-e-Taiba starts campaign against India. Its chief Hafiz Saeed accuses India of water terrorism.
2010- Pakistan accuses India of choking water supply consistently.
2016- India reviews working of Indus Water Treaty linking it with cross-border terrorism.
Indus Water Treaty being one of the most successful water sharing treaties in the world today, both the countries should sit for bilateral talks as this would set an example before the world. For 58 years, both these countries are sharing waters of Indus and its tributaries, peacefully. Because of the confrontations between India and Pakistan over issues, the water Treaty naturally comes into picture.
After the Uri cross border attacks by Pakistan in 2016 and several violations thereafter the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said,
“Blood and Water cannot flow simultaneously”
There are issues between both the parties but there has been no dispute over water after the Treaty was ratified. And if there were petty issues they have been sorted via legal procedures within the framework of the Treaty. As per the Treaty India cannot stop the flow of water, what we can do as a solution is to reduce the flow of water to Pakistan and restrict it to what is mentioned in the Treaty.
But any project that may affect water flow will take time to implement considering the time and cost factor.
To add on the Treaty has got no provisions for either of the country to walk out unilaterally otherwise it would become the bone of contention between the two.
The validity of the Treaty is again a question of challenge as it has not been signed by the President of India instead it was signed by the then Prime Minister.
The Indus Water Treaty was meant to reduce hostilities between both the parties and this should be kept in same spirit, as India has always dealt with both the issues of water and security separately. Breaking the Indus Water Treaty does not makes sense to India as at present we do not have enough infrastructure to use the additional water available. It may create flood like issues in Kashmir valley. On the other hand not respecting international Treaty may invite global condemnation to India as a whole. There are also other issues like China blocking water of Brahmaputra to Assam. The tension in the Kashmir valley may get a whole new dimension and may start water wars.
India should use her rights over Western rivers for storage, irrigation, generation of hydroelectricity in the manner specified in the Treaty which would be a good move and a clear message to Pakistan would be sent without doing something very drastic.