What is the 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 that was made to chalk out the control over the 6 rivers that run across India and then Pakistan into the Indus basin.
- This treaty was signed following the partition of the subcontinent.
- On an international level, the IWT has been seen as one of the most successful cases of conflict resolution. It is so because India and Pakistan, ever since IWT was signed, have engaged in 4 major wars but the treaty has stayed in place.
Which rivers belong to India and which ones to Pakistan?
- The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory.
- Precise details were laid out about how the water will be divided.
- While Jhelum, Chenab and Indus (3 western rivers) were allocated to Pakistan, India received the control of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej (3 eastern rivers).
- In effect, Pakistan got 80% of the water from the Indus river system and India 20%.
- If disputes arose, the two parties would try to solve them bilaterally first. Appointing a “Neutral Expert” and approaching the International Court of Arbitration are other options.
- The treaty also stated that aside from certain cases such as specified domestic, non-consumptive and agricultural use permitted to India, no storage and irrigation systems can be built by India on the western rivers.
Why in News?
- India has announced that it wants to modify the 62-year-old Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan, citing what it called Pakistan’s “intransigence” in resolving disputes over the Kishenganga and Ratle hydropower projects, both in Jammu and Kashmir.
- India also protested Pakistan’s “unilateral” decision to approach a court of arbitration at The Hague.
- The decision to issue notice to Pakistan, with a request for a response within 90 days, is a major step and could lead to the unravelling and renegotiation of the water sharing treaty. The treaty is often seen as a rare example of India-Pakistan consensus, at a time when the two countries have snapped trade and cultural exchanges, and most bilateral talks.
Dispute resolution process
- According to Article IX of the treaty that deals with the “Settlement of Differences and Disputes”, there are three possible steps to decide on objections raised by either side: working within the “Permanent Indus Commission” (PIC) of the Indian and Pakistani delegation of water experts that meet regularly; consulting a World Bank-appointed neutral expert: or setting up a court process to adjudicate the case through the World Bank and the Permanent Court of Arbitrage (PCA).
- However, while India has held that each step must be fully exhausted before both sides agree to moving on to the next step, Pakistan had moved on without waiting for India’s concurrence. The neutral expert last met with Indian and Pakistani negotiators in November 2022, while the Permanent Indus Water Commission last met in Delhi in May 2022, and is due to be held in Lahore this year.
- In 2015, after nearly a decade of failing to resolve the objections, Pakistan approached the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert, but subsequently changed its stand and decided to ask for a Court of Arbitration.