India has issued a notice to Pakistan, through the commissioner for Indus waters, for modification of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), in view of Islamabad’s lack of cooperation in implementing it, government sources said on Friday. India said that it has been consistently a steadfast supporter and responsible partner in fully implementing the pact that was inked over six decades back for matters relating to cross-border rivers.
So, what is this treaty and why India wants amendments to it now, News18 explains:
History of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)
Signed by the then-Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the then-Pakistani President Ayub Khan in 1960, IWT was brokered by the World Bank (then known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development), after the negotiations that went on for nine years.
The Indus river, which originates from Tibet, has been used for irrigation since time immemorial. However, since the India-Pakistan partition in 1947, the sharing of river water had been a bone of contention between India, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan.
India had blocked water to Pakistan for some time in 1948. The water flow was later restored after ceasefire agreement between the two countries, but in 1951,
Pakistan took the matter to the UN.
On the recommendations of the UN, the World Bank came up with this agreement in 1954, which was eventually signed by India and Pakistan on September 19, 1960.
Provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty
The IWT spells out conditions for water-sharing of the Indus and its five tributaries Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Jhelum, and Chenab.
Under the provisions of the treaty, India has unrestricted access to use all the water of the eastern rivers - Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi amounting to around 33 million acre-feet (MAF) annually.
The waters of western rivers — Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab — amounting to around 135 MAF annually have been assigned largely to Pakistan.
UN has set up a ‘Permanent Indus Commission’, with a mechanism for arbitration to amicably resolve conflicts, that may arise in water sharing.
Under the provisions of the treaty, India can use 20 per cent of the water from the western rivers as well for domestic, non-consumptive needs such as storage, irrigation, and also the generation of electricity. At current usage, India utilises a little over 90 per cent of its quota of Indus waters.
Treaty gives the rest 80 per cent of the water from the Indus River System to Pakistan.
Further, IWT says that while executing any scheme of flood protection or flood control both India and Pakistan have to avoid any material damage to the other country. as far as practicable.
It also says that the use of the natural channels of the rivers for the discharge of flood or other excess waters shall be free and not subject to limitation by either country. In case of any damage caused by such use, neither of the countries shall have any claim against the other.
Under the provisions of Article VIII(5) of the Indus Waters Treaty, the Permanent Indus Commission is required to meet at least once a year.
Why India Seeks Amendments in the Treaty?
The treaty allows India to use water resources in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. But these states get water from Yamuna, a tributary of the Ganga as well.
However, for Pakistan, the Indus system is its lifeline for the Punjab province, which is the major agricultural hub of the country. Every time India makes a move to use its quota of water, Pakistan objects to it, leading to tension between the two countries.
India’s notice sent on January 25 through respective commissioners for Indus waters, is set to open up the process of making changes to the treaty.
Sources said that India issued the notice in view of Pakistan’s “intransigence" on a solution to the differences over the Kishenganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Projects. The notice was sent as per provisions of Article XII (3) of IWT.
Under the notice, India has called on Pakistan to enter into intergovernmental negotiations within 90 days to “update the treaty to incorporate the lessons learned over the last 62 years."
“The objective of the notice for modification is to provide Pakistan with an opportunity to enter into intergovernmental negotiations within 90 days to rectify the material breach of IWT. This process would also update IWT to incorporate the lessons learned over the last 62 years," said a source.
India has always been a steadfast supporter and a responsible partner in implementing IWT in letter and spirit, sources asserted.
“However, Pakistan’s actions have adversely impinged on the provisions of IWT and their implementation, and forced India to issue an appropriate notice for modification of the pact," said another source.
In 2015, Pakistan requested the appointment of a neutral expert to examine its technical objections to India’s Kishenganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs). In 2016, the neighbouring country unilaterally retracted this request and proposed that a Court of Arbitration adjudicate on its objections, the sources said.
They said this “unilateral action" by Pakistan is in contravention of the graded dispute settlement mechanism envisaged by Article IX of IWT.
Accordingly, India made a separate request for the matter to be referred to a neutral expert.
“The initiation of two simultaneous processes on the same questions and the potential of their inconsistent or contradictory outcomes creates an unprecedented and legally untenable situation, which risks endangering IWT itself," the source said.
“The World Bank acknowledged this itself in 2016, and took a decision to ‘pause’ the initiation of two parallel processes and request India and Pakistan to seek an amicable way out," it said.
According to sources, despite repeated efforts by India to find a mutually agreeable way forward, Pakistan refused to discuss the issue during the five meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission from 2017 to 2022.
They said that at Pakistan’s continuing insistence, the World Bank has recently initiated actions on both the neutral expert and Court of Arbitration processes.
The sources added that such parallel consideration of the same issues is not covered under any provision of IWT.
“Faced with such violation of IWT provisions, India has been compelled to issue a notice of modification," the source cited above said.
(With Inputs from PTI)
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