Indus Water Treaty 1960: Why India has issued notice to Pakistan?

NEW DELHI: The Government of India has issued a notice to Pakistan over material breach of 62-year old Indus Water Treaty (IWT). The Indus Water Treaty is among the few bilateral agreements between the two countries that have been able to survive through various turbulent phases of bilateral relationship.

According to the government sources, the notice on material breach was sent to Pakistan through respective Commissioners for Indus Waters. It was in response to Pakistan’s refusal to discuss and resolve the issue of India’s Kishenganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Projects for the last five years, despite India’s efforts.

What is Indus Water Treaty?

Negotiated by the World Bank, the Indus Water Treaty was signed in 1960 by India’s first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and Ayub Khan. The treaty on water distribution gives complete control of three eastern rivers – Ravi, Satluj and Beas with around 40 bn m3 to India. Whereas, the water of three western rivers – Indus, Chenab and Jhelum with around 99bn m3 under Pakitan’s control. 

The Indus water system is important for the water security of both India and Pakistan. Indus is the main river system of Pakistan and thus very crucial for the agriculture, and economy of the country. India enjoys a considerable level of control of the river system and controls the upper catchment areas. And, despite Pakistan’s sustained hostile approach, India has honoured the provisions of the treaty terms even during the four wars between two countries. 

The current issue is over India’s projects Kishangana Hydroelectric Project on Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum and Ratle HE Project on Chenab river. Kishanganga is a 330 MW capacity power project and and Ratle will have a capacity of 850 MW. 

As per the provisions of the treaty, India can use the water of Chenab, Indus, and Jhelum for non-cosumptive use including navigation, power generalation and fish cultivattion.

Pakistan objected to both projects and requested a “Neutral Expert” to examine the technical details of these projects in 2015. However, in 2016, Pakistan retracted from his position and took the matter to a Court of Arbitration for adjudication. 

As per the Article IX of the IWT, in case of dispute in water sharing, the two countries have to go by a three-level graded mechanism of dispute resolution. First, the disputes are clarified and resolved at the level of Indus Commissioners. If they are unable to resovle, a Neutral Expert involving World Bank comes into picture. The third and final stage is Court of Arbitration.

Dispite India’s effort to mutually discuss and resolve the issues, Pakistan refused to discuss the issue in last five annual meetings and unilaterally took the matter to the Court of Arbitration in Hague.

According to the government sources, initiating two parallel mechanisms for dispute resolution will result in uncertainly and legal complexities. It also endangers the IWT itself. Therefore, India can also look to update and renegotiate the Indus Water Treay, the terms of which at this moment are too favourable for Pakistan.

Also | Why Joshimath is Sinking?