Introduction: Describe the Indus waters treaty in brief.
Body: State official reasons for which modification is being sought also mentioning the potential benefits due to which modification is being thought of now. Implications of this on India-Pakistan relations.
Conclusion: Suggest a balanced way forward connecting it with the larger masses of the two nations.
The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-sharing treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank, and signed in 1960. It allocates the use of the Indus River and its tributaries, which originate in India and flow through Pakistan, to the two countries.
Under the treaty, India controls the eastern rivers (the Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi) and Pakistan controls the western rivers (the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum). A permanent Indus Waters Commission to resolve any disputes that may arise has also been established.
India can ensure run-off of the river hydroelectric projects on the western rivers alongside having complete rights over eastern rivers. However, there are differences between India and Pakistan due to which India decided to modify the treaty:
- Pakistan is intransigent in implementing the treaty and has raised objections to the construction of hydel projects on the Indian side. The treaty has a graded and sequential mechanism in case of differences- first the Indus Commissioners of both sides in case of difference, then the Neutral Expert of the world bank, and only then the Court of Arbitration.
- But Pakistan ignored the neutral expert and directly requested the WB to appoint a judge of the court of arbitration. Whereas India requested a neutral expert. India objects to two simultaneous dispute resolution mechanisms needing a revision in Treaty.
- Thousand cuts strategy by Pakistan through means of state sponsor terrorism hurting India. Just after differences arose over Kishenganga and Rattle projects, there was the Uri attack leading to demands to use water as a strategic leverage.
- The Prime Minister also mentioned that blood and water cannot flow together highlighting the level of tensions between the two countries.
- India is criticized for being a responsible upper riparian state despite Pakistan never budging on any tension issues such as on Kashmir. This creates pressure to seek to narrow down the accommodation being given in the original treaty.
The modification will provide certain benefits due to which it should be deliberated such as fulfilling India’s energy and water needs for development, addressing flood mitigation, and providing storage in dry season through dam construction, etc.
Implications of this on India-Pakistan relations further:
- Under Article XII (3) of the treaty these amendments can be enforced when ratified by the two governments. If Pakistan refuses to respond within a notice period of 90 days, Article XII (4) provides for its termination through ratification by both sides.
- India could spell out further conditions for the treaty and increase its leverage in the context of already significant challenges internally in Pakistan.
- India could also put certain conditions on terrorism and Kashmir although China being an all-weather friend of Pakistan may also toughen its stance on the Brahmaputra which is already underway.
- It could further strain the relations also with the closing of dialogue channels with the help of Indus commissioners and neutral experts.
- Cancellation of the treaty might lead to a race for the construction of hydel projects in this region for a prior appropriation of resources leading to a greater Chinese role in the Pakistani economy.
Overall, there should be proper deliberation and formation of a high-level task panel for India’s next move about putting out the concrete modifications we need in the treaty without leading to water wars in South Asia in the future as many lives on both sides depend on the Indus.