The Indus Water Treaty is upheld as being one of the most successful water sharing endeavors in the world today. So why are we even considering abrogating it?
Why was it needed?
After the partition of British India, the newly formed states were at constant conflict on how to share the waters of the Indus basin. As the sources of the rivers of the Indus basin originated from India, Pakistan felt threatened by a total Indian control over the rivers. During the initial years of partition, the Indus waters was shared by the Inter-Dominion Accord of May 4, 1948. In compliance with the Inter-Dominion Accord, India released sufficient waters in order to meet their immediate requirements. In return, the Govt. of Pakistan made annual payments to India. This was a temporary arrangement made by the two nations followed by negotiations for a permanent solution.
What is the Indus Water Treaty?
The Indus Water Treaty, or Sindhu Jal Samjhauta, is an agreement between India and Pakistan on how to deal with the Indus waters. It was signed on 19th September 1960 by the India Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.
It divides the Indus basin into Eastern rivers and Western rivers. India was given the unrestricted use of the eastern rivers, i.e. Satluj, Ravi and Beas whereas Pakistan was given the unrestricted use of the western rivers, i.e. Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.
India is also allowed to use 20% of the western waters, without altering the flow of the rivers, for irrigation, transport and power generation.
Why discuss it now?
In the wake of the URI attacks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a meeting to review the 56 year old Treaty. The Indus water commission meeting, which is held twice a year, was also suspended with immediate effect. Following this, there was a widespread rumor that India might revoke the Indus water treaty, but doing so would have its own drawbacks.
- Since the treaty was brokered by the world bank, its abrogation might smear the image of India in the International community.
- It might create trust issues among our other neighbors like Bangladesh and Nepal with whom we have water sharing treaties.
- It might also give China a strong reason to block or divert the flow of Brahmaputra.
- If the western water is not tackled with care, we might flood our own states of Punjab and Kashmir.
It is pretty evident that turning off the Indus water tap might be disastrous for our own country. So are we really revoking the treaty?
Well, not so much. Prime Minister Modi said that India will now exploit the treaty to its maximum. Due to constant objection from Pakistan’s side, India was unable to construct its dams and could only use about 4% of the western water.
In order to fully exploit the treaty, India will now resume the construction and continue to build more dams on the western rivers. This is also used to create a non-military pressure on Pakistan for supporting and sponsoring terrorism in Indian occupied Kashmir.