Should Indus Water Treaty be revisited ?

Ajay Bhardwaj | April 02, 2022 05:29 PM

Chandigarh, April 2:

Ajay Bhardwaj

There is an urgent need to revisit the  Indus Waters Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 because of dramatic change in circumstances, both in terms of the flow of water as much as in terms of political ethos, but how much would it be possible in the context of international relations is an intricate question.

The observation was underlined at a sangoshthi on the topic, Indus Waters Treaty: Challenges and Opportunities, organised today collectively by the Panjab University study centre of the Panchanad Research Institute,  Department of Gandhian and Peace Studies, Panjab University and the Haryana State Higher Education Council.

The discussion was based on two books, Indus Waters Story co-authored by Ashok Motwani and Sant Kumar Sharma and Indus Basin Uninterrupted written by Uttam Sinha.

Ashok Motwani and Sant Sharma argued that since Independence in 1947, there has been a ‘water conflict’ between India and Pakistan. The Indus Waters treaty was signed with the assistance of the World Bank in 1960, which divided the Indus System of rivers in a manner that the control of three Eastern rivers—the Beas, Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India, while the water flowing in three Western rivers—the Indus, Chenab and the Jhelum with was controlled by Pakistan.

The two authors contended that soon after the Treaty  India went on to construct several hydroelectric power plants and storage on its portion of the Western rivers, but these structures have become controversial since the Western rivers are controlled by Pakistan and provide more than 90% of water to that country.

Although the Treaty has survived decades of acrimony and three wars, between India and Pakistan and remains one of the most successful water-sharing arrangements in the world, it has been running into more difficulties in recent times.

Sant Sharma elaborated that following the Uri attack of September 2016 and the Pulwama attack in February 2019, there have been renewed demands to stop sharing water with Pakistan, if not to scrap the Treaty altogether.

He said what is required for that is an understanding of the nuances of the Treaty and the political will to go ahead with exercising India’s rights to the fullest and the enterprise to ask engineers to design projects aimed at doing so.

Uttam Sinha, in his address, expressed his reservations over the possibility of scrapping the Treaty or bringing about amendments to it. He argued that the nuances of international relations could never be overlooked while executing such action. And moreover, in case India unilaterally goes ahead with any such action, it could jeopardise its relations with other neighbouring countries.

He said the Indus basin exhibits an enormously rich hydrology heritage and remains a powerful symbol of the passage of time. It continues to influence and in turn, is influenced by the socio-political landscape.

He agreed that even after 62 years the Treaty continues to survive though under huge pressure both physical and political.

Prof BK Kuthiala, chairperson of the Haryana State Higher Education Council who is also the chairperson of the Panchnad Research Institute, Dr AS Arya, former chairperson of the Panchnad Research Institute, and Prof KC Pandey, Director of the Panchanad Research Institute were among prominent people to attend the sangoshthi. 

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