Contemporary Issues INDIA – PAKISTAN


  • Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan with the help of World Bank, which is also a signatory.
  • IWT allocates Western Rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) to Pakistan and Eastern Rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej) to India.
  • At the same time, the Treaty allows each country certain uses on the rivers allocated to the other.
  • All the waters of the Eastern Rivers shall be available for the unrestricted use of India, except as otherwise expressly provided.
  • India is allowed to make some use of the waters of the Western rivers which includes:
    • Domestic Use: like drinking, washing, bathing, recreation, sanitation.
    • Non-Consumptive Use: means any control or use of water for navigation, floating of timber or other property, flood protection or flood control, fishing or fish culture, wildlife etc.
    • Agricultural Use: Use of water for irrigation, except for irrigation of household gardens and public recreational gardens.
    • Generation of hydro-electric power: However, the treaty does not allow creation of large river water storage projects but only run-of-the-river hydropower projects.

How the treaty works?

  • Permanent Indus Commission: A mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers. It has commissioners from both India and Pakistan.
  • Dispute resolution under the Treaty:
    • “Questions” are handled by the Commission.
    • “Differences” are to be resolved by a Neutral Expert.
    • “Disputes” are to be referred to a seven-member arbitral tribunal called the “Court of Arbitration.”
  • Role of World Bank: Its role is limited and procedural. Its role in relation to “differences” and “disputes” is limited to the designation of individuals to fulfil certain roles in the context of Neutral Expert or Court of Arbitration proceedings when requested by either or both Parties. 
  • Examples of differences and disputes under the treaty:
    • Run of the river hydro-power project on Kishanganga (330 megawatts) – tributary of Jhelum.
    • Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plant located on the tributary of Chenab.
  • On the above issue
    • Pakistan demanded matter be referred to court of Arbitration. India wanted the issue to be Referred to Neutral expert.
    • Pakistan have raised disputes on Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydropower plants located on Marusudar river, a tributary of the Chenab, J&K.
    • India has raised concerns on issues such as Pakistan’s blockade of Fazilka drain, which resulted in water contamination in the border areas.

Issues of dissatisfaction raised by Both countries

  • Prevents storage projects by India: IWT prevents India from building any storage systems on western rivers. Even though the treaty allows that under certain exceptional circumstances storage systems can be built, India contents that Pakistan deliberately stops any effort due to its political rivalry with India.
  • The two countries have been embroiled in conflicts over several projects including Salal hydroelectric project on Chenab, Tulbul project, Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric plants.
  • Varying interpretations: The treaty is highly technical, leading to divergences between the two countries in terms of interpretations.
  • Political Mistrust: India tries to make maximum use of breathing space provided by the treaty to build projects on western rivers. Pakistan due to its suspicions towards India keeps an extra keen eye on every technical aspect of the project and tries its absolute best to get it suspended.

Issues raised by parliamentary committee

  • Raised concern that despite increasing demand of water, India has underutilised waters of Western rivers for irrigation purposes.
  • Government should examine the feasibility of making maximum use of provisions in Indus Water Treaty, in terms of full utilization of all accessible water of the eastern rivers and maximum utilization of irrigation and hydropower potential of western rivers including permissible water storage as per provisions of the treaty.
  • Although Indus Water Treaty has stood the test of time, IWT was framed based on knowledge and technology existing at the time of its agreement in 1960s. Perspective of both the nations at that time was confined to river management and usage of water through construction of dams, barrages, canals, and hydro-power generation.
  • Present day pressing issues such as climate change, global warming, and environmental impact assessment etc. were not considered by the Treaty.

In view of this, there is a need to re-negotiate the Treaty to establish institutional structure or legislative framework to address the impact of climate change on water availability in the Indus basin and other challenges which are not covered under the Treaty.

Online Counselling
Table of Contents
Today's Current Affairs
This is default text for notification bar