About Indus Water Treaty (IWT)
- Signed in the year 1960 by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the then President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, the Indus Water Treaty is an agreement brokered by the World Bank that was made to chalk out the control over the 6 rivers that run across India and then Pakistan into the Indus basin.
- Both India and Pakistan are granted exclusive rights to utilize the waters of the rivers allocated to them without harming others’ interests.
- Under the IWT, India has unrestricted use of the three eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej), while Pakistan enjoys similar rights over the three western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab).
- The treaty also stated that aside from certain specific cases, no storage and irrigation systems can be built by India on the western rivers.
- India is allowed to store 3.60 million-acre feet (MAF) of water of the western rivers of which 2.85 MAF for conservation storage and an additional 0.75 MAF for “flood storage”.
What is the issue?
- The core of the recent issue between India and Pakistan involves the Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants in India’s Jammu and Kashmir.
- India vs Pakistan’s arguments: India considers these projects crucial for energy needs and the region’s development, while Pakistan has raised objections, citing violations of the treaty and potential negative effects on its water supply.
- Pakistan first raised its concerns over the Kishanganga project in 2006 and the Ratle project on the Chenab in 2012.
- In 2010, the dispute on the Kishanganga project was taken to the Court of Arbitration (CoA).
- In 2013, the CoA delivered the final judgment, ruling that the Kishanganga hydroelectric project is a run-of-river dam, and India, under the IWT, can divert water from the river Kishanganga/Neelum for power generation.
- However, the court stated that India has to maintain a minimum flow of water in the Kishanganga/Neelum river to nine cusecs (cubic meters of water per second).
- After the CoA’s judgment, the two countries reached an amicable resolution on only one out of four issues.
- In 2016, Pakistan requested the World Bank to form a CoA while India asked for a neutral expert.
- Later the World Bank paused the works on the Kishanganga and Ratle projects “to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements”. However, works on the Kishanganga continued.
- In October 2022, the World Bank appointed Michel Lino as the neutral expert and Professor Sean Murphy as Chairman of the CoA.
- In July 2023 the Permanent Court of Arbitration, or PCA (chaired by Prof. Murphy), unanimously rejected India’s objections and confirmed its competence to consider and resolve the disputes raised by Pakistan.
- No harm rule: More than going to court, the need is to incorporate “equitable and reasonable utilization” and the “no harm rule” in the IWT. Any such incorporation requires better ties and enduring trust between India and Pakistan.
- Involve local stakeholders: There is a need to involve local stakeholders also in any negotiation process between India and Pakistan on shared water issues. Also, a joint group comprising technocrats, climate experts, water management professionals, and scientists from both countries can be set up to look at the core of the problem.
- To make the IWT work there is a need to explore cooperation arrangements mentioned in Article VII of the IWT. The two countries have to recognise their common interest in the optimum development of the Indus Rivers System.
- Need for amending IWT: As the IWT was signed more than 60 years ago, amendment may be needed due to changes in the situation in the Indus River Basin region and any such modification requires trust between the two riparian countries.