GS Mains Model Question & Answer: Discuss the history of Indus Water Treaty and how it affects India and Pakistan

GS Mains Model Question & Answer: Discuss the history of Indus Water Treaty and how it affects India and Pakistan.

Q. Discuss the history of Indus Water Treaty and how it affects India and Pakistan. (12.5 Marks)

(General Studies Mains Paper II – International Relations : India and its neighborhood- relations)

Model Answer :

The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) is a water sharing arrangement, signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960, by then Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan's President General Ayub Khan.

History of Indus Water Treaty

The World Bank (the erstwhile international bank for reconstruction and development) brokered the treaty and is also a party to it.

The Indus system of rivers comprises three western rivers which includes the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab and three eastern rivers — the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi.

The Treaty led to the setting up of an Indus Water Commission to adjudicate any future dispute over the allocation of water.

The commission, which has survived two wars, is required to meet regularly to discuss potential disputes and provide an ongoing machinery for consultation and conflict resolution through inspection, exchange of data and visits.

What does the treaty meant for India and Pakistan ?

  • According to the treaty, India has unrestricted use of the eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej), but only 20% use of the western rivers. However, India is allowed water from these rivers for "domestic and non-consumptive use, hydropower and agriculture, subject to certain limits". India grossly under-utilises its entitlement under the 1960-treaty where it can use all the waters of the Jhelum, Chenab and Indus.

  • Pakistan also received a one-time financial compensation for the loss of water from the eastern rivers and to build a new canal system.

  • There is a provision for mediation and arbitration by a neutral umpire in case of any disagreement. The IWT has, so far, been implemented by both the countries faithfully. It has not gone for any modification till date, even though Article-XII of the IWT allows for any kind of modification when both parties agree.

  • Jammu and Kashmir too has not been able to harness the full potential of the treaty. In 2007, the Union Water Ministry had estimated Jammu and Kashmir can increase its Irrigated Cropped Area (ICA) by 4,25,000 acres.

Pakistan at a dead end

Official sources said the Indus commissioners will meet only in the absence of terrorism. These commissioners meet about twice a year and have met every year since the treaty was signed, even during the 1965, 1971 and Kargil wars.

  • Treaty provides for three-stage grievance redress. Disputes first raised at meetings (two a year). If unresolved, dispute is referred to neutral expert World Bank appoints. If that too fails, sides can apply for arbitration by the UN's court of arbitration
  • If the first stage of dispute redressal is suspended, the other two steps cannot kick in. This leads to a dead end for Pakistan


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