Indus Waters Treaty

Recently, India announced that it wants to revise the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan.
India has sought amendments to the treaty as per Article XII(3) of the treaty.
Despite India’s efforts, Pakistan has been refusing to negotiate and resolve the issue on the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects for the last five years.

Indus Water Treaty

What is Indus Water Treaty

  • The Indus Water Treaty is an agreement between India and Pakistan for optimum utilization of the waters of the Indus and its tributaries.
  • The treaty was signed by the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Karachi on 19 September 1960 under the mediation of the World Bank.
  • The treaty gives India the right to control the waters of the three eastern rivers – Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej while giving Pakistan the right to control the waters of the three western rivers – Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum.
  • The treaty allows India to use the waters of the western rivers for non-consumptive applications such as limited irrigation use, navigation, fisheries, etc.
  • India can also build hydroelectric projects on the western rivers in the form of Run of the River projects.
  • Under the treaty, both countries have formed a permanent Indus Commission, which makes policies for the implementation of the treaty, as well as, this commission organizes meetings and visits annually and submits its work report to both governments.
  • Under Article 8(5) of the Treaty, the meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission are held alternately, once in India and once in Pakistan.
  • In addition to representatives of governments, engineers and technical experts also participate in these meetings.
  • These meetings are very important, in which they discuss important topics like flood data, project details, water flow, and rainfall status.
  • The treaty does not provide for unilateral withdrawal and is supposed to remain in force until both countries ratify another mutually agreed upon agreement.
Indus Water Treaty

What is the issue with Indus Water Treaty?

India cites the issues of the Rattle hydroelectric project and Kishenganga disputes as the reason for sending the notice.

What is the Kishen Ganga Dispute?

India launched the Kishen Ganga Project in 2007. The project has to do with producing electricity. It intends to use the Kishen Ganga’s waters as a power source. Pakistan protested to this, and the project was put on hold in 2011. Pakistan objected, but why? Kishen Ganga is said to be a tributary of Jhelum in Pakistan. According to the Indus Water Treaty, Pakistan owns the waters of Jhelum. So, is the Indian project a treaty violation? No. India is permitted to use the waters of all rivers under the Indus Water Treaty for non-consumptive purposes, such as the production of hydroelectric power. And India was exploiting this provision to create power from the Kishen Ganga Water (Jhelum).

Dispute resolution process under the treaty

Article IX of the treaty deals with the settlement of differences and disputes.
As per Article IX, there are three possible steps that can be taken to decide the objections raised by either party –

  • Resolving disputes through Permanent Indus Commission.
  • Consulting a neutral expert appointed by the World Bank.
  • Settling disputes through a court process with the World Bank and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

In 2015, after nearly 10 years of deadlock over the construction of the projects, Pakistan approached the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert, but later Pakistan changed its stand and went to the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
The first hearing of the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration began in court on 27 January and India has boycotted the court proceedings.


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What was in Indus Water Treaty?

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.

What is the Indus Water Treaty of 1960?

The Indus treaty, which divided up the six Himalayan rivers equally between India and Pakistan, allows India the unrestricted use of all water from the 3 eastern tributaries of the Indus river (Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi) while Pakistan receives use of the western tributaries (Indus or Sindhu, Jhelum, and Chenab).