After 62 years, India moves to amend its water treaty with Pak.

After 62 years, India moves to amend its water treaty with Pak.

The Indus Water Treaty dispute:

India has sought modification of the 62-year-old treaty that governs the sharing of waters of the Indus system.

In an unprecedented move, India has issued a notice to Pakistan for modification of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) — a bilateral agreement that was signed in September 1960 and survived three wars, the Kargil conflict, and the terror attacks in Mumbai and Kashmir.

Sources said Pakistan’s “intransigence” forced India to issue the notice of modification and update the treaty to “incorporate the lessons learned over the last 62 years”. 

Sources in Delhi said that while India has always been a “steadfast supporter” and a “responsible partner” in implementing the treaty in letter and spirit, Pakistan’s actions have “adversely impacted” on its provisions and their implementation.

Sources in Delhi, meanwhile, referred to the dispute resolution mechanism under Article IX of the treaty. “It’s a graded, three-level mechanism. So, whenever we plan to start a project there, under the Indus Water Treaty, we have to inform Pakistan. Invariably, they oppose it and ask for more details, which means there is a question,” they said.

At Pakistan’s insistence, sources said, the World Bank initiated action in March last year on the “Neutral Expert” and Court of Arbitration processes. In October, the World Bank named Michel Lino as the “Neutral Expert” and Prof Sean Murphy as chairman of the Court of Arbitration.

The IWT was signed by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then Pakistani President Mohammed Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19, 1960, after nine years of negotiations between the two countries.

“All the waters of the Eastern Rivers shall be available for the unrestricted use of India, except as otherwise expressly provided in this Article,” states Article II (1) of the treaty, referring to Sutlej, Beas and Ravi.

On Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, the treaty’s Article III (1) states: “Pakistan shall receive for unrestricted use all those waters of the Western Rivers which India is under obligation to let flow under the provisions…”

After 62 years, India moves to amend its water treaty with Pak.

Implementation of Indus Water Treaty must be in letter and spirit: MEA

“The objective of the notice for modification is to provide Pakistan an opportunity to enter into intergovernmental negotiations within 90 days to rectify the material breach of IWT,” the sources said.

Sources said the notice was conveyed by India to Pakistan on January 25 through the respective Commissioners for Indus Waters according to Article XII (3) of the IWT. The Article states: “The provisions of this Treaty may from time to time be modified by a duly ratified treaty concluded for that purpose between the two Governments.”

The World Bank acknowledged this process in 2016, and decided to “pause” the initiation of two parallel processes and request India and Pakistan to seek an amicable way out, the sources said.

Despite efforts by India to find a mutually agreeable way forward, the sources said Pakistan refused to discuss the issue during five meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission from 2017 to 2022.

Sources said India was compelled to issue the notice since “such parallel consideration of the same issues is not covered under any provision of IWT”.

India is constructing the Kishanganga project on the river by the same name, which is a tributary of Jhelum, and Ratle on the Chenab. Kishanganga has the capacity to generate 330 MW electricity, and Ratle 850 MW.

India has about 20% of the total water carried by the Indus system while Pakistan has 80%. The treaty allows India to use the western river waters for limited irrigation use and unlimited non-consumptive use for such applications as power generation, navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. It lays down detailed regulations for India in building projects over the western rivers. 

Nuts & bolts of the dispute

While Indus, Jhelum and Chenab are for Pakistan under the treaty, India can build hydroelectric power plants subject to design approval.

India has already built a hydroelectric power plant on Jhelum and is constructing another on Chenab.

In 2015, Pakistan objected to their design and wanted a neutral expert to sort it out. India agreed.

A year later, Pakistan sought a court of arbitration instead. It was India’s turn to object, saying two parallel negotiations can’t be allowed under the treaty.

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