Could India abrogate "Indus Waters Treaty"?.
Indus Waters Treaty
- The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-sharing arrangement signed by then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then President of Pakistan Ayub Khan on September 19, 1960, in Karachi.
- It covers the water distribution and sharing rights of six rivers -- Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. The agreement was brokered by the World Bank.
Why was the agreement signed?
- The agreement was signed because the source of all the rivers of the Indus basin were in India (Indus and Sutlej, though, originate in China).
- It allowed India to use them for irrigation, transport and power generation, while laying down precise do's and don'ts for India on building projects along the way.
- Pakistan feared that India could potentially create droughts in case of a war between the two countries.
- A Permanent Indus Commission set up in this connection has gone through three wars between the two countries without disruption and provides a bilateral mechanism for consultation and conflict-resolution through inspections, exchange of data and visits.
What is the Indus Waters Treaty and can India abrogate it?
- The treaty gave the three "eastern rivers" of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej to India for use of water without restriction.
- The three "western rivers" of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum were allocated to Pakistan.
- India can construct storage facilities on "western rivers" of up to 3.6 million acre feet, which it has not done so far.
- India is also allowed agriculture use of 7 lakh acres above the irrigated cropped area as on April 1, 1960.
Is there a dispute?
- Although the two countries have been managing to share the waters without major dispute, experts say that the agreement is one of the most lop-sided with India being allowed to use only 20 percent of the six-river Indus water system.
- Pakistan itself in July this year sought an international arbitration if India sought to build hydro power projects on the Jhelum and Chenab rivers.
- Though the agreement has been seen as one of the most successful water-sharing pacts, the current tension between the two South Asian neighbours might well lead to a flashpoint. Strategic affairs and security experts say that future wars could well be fought over water.
Could India abrogate the agreement?.
It suffices to say that India has given a most magnanimous water-sharing pact, hailed as a success model, world over. But it is a bad bargaining chip for India, which has got other tools.
1. India is a lower riparian state when it comes to Himalayan rivers like the Brahmaputra
India has always cited how responsible it has been as an upper riparian state when it comes to the water-sharing agreement. Indus water treaty has remained the most demonstrable evidence of it.
Pakistan’s all weather ally China is the upper riparian state in the Brahmaputra, a river which flows into India’s northeast. Making any precedent in which an upper riparian state is overbearing can give hints to Beijing on the water-sharing issue which doesn’t augur well for India.
And in any conflict situation, Beijing siding with its close friend is a forgone conclusion.
2. Kashmir issue will get another dimension
Water was at the centre of the Kashmir issue between the two neighbours as well. After Independence, India used water as a penalising measure but it didn’t yield much result. India did that in April 1948 but restored water flow soon enough.
In 1951, Pakistan mounted an accusation that India water not releasing water to it, subsequently the two sides painstakingly put together the Indus water pact. The process for a water-sharing pact began in 1954 and ended with the Indus water treaty in 1960.
Any tampering with the pact would give Pakistan another propaganda to link it with Kashmir issue, which will further complicate the situation.
3. Pakistan won’t mend ways with punitive measures
Any punitive measure from India such as turning off the Indus tap or tampering with the pact will be fodder for Pakistan to whip up anti-India feelings among people.
Pakistan as a state never learnt from three war defeats from India. Instead of mending ways, it went on an offensive to target India through radicalisation and raising a bunch of non-state actors.
India needs to think beyond such measures to make Pakistan see reason. As a mature country with a robust market and strong institutions, India has many other ways to put across its point.
4. Spillover impacts on other water-sharing pacts in South Asia
Water sharing accords are tough to arrive at. India is a part of three of the seven water-sharing pacts between countries in the region — the Ganges treaty with Bangladesh that took 20 years to hammer out, the Indus water treaty with Pakistan and the Gandak treaty with Nepal.
Unlike Indus, Teesta water sharing agreement of 2011 envisages a 50:50 water-sharing formula for the water of the river that is crucial to both north Bengal and the northwestern districts of Bangladesh. The pact has not been signed yet.
It is better not to create bad precedents on water-sharing pacts when arriving at such pacts is becoming an increasingly onerous task.