[Answered] Evaluate the effectiveness of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) in regulating water courses between India and Pakistan. Discuss why it is often cited as an example of cooperation between the two nations despite their strained relations.

Introduction: Give brief context of IWT.

Body: Evaluate the effectiveness of the treaty.

Conclusion: Way forward.

The Indus Water Treaty or IWT is a treaty signed in 1960 between India & Pakistan with the mediation of the World Bank which acted as a third party. Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan. The treaty prescribed how water from the six rivers would be shared between India and Pakistan.

How effective has IWT been in regulating water courses between two nations?

  • Water sharing: Treaty allocated the three western rivers—Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum—to Pakistan for unrestricted use, barring certain non-consumptive, agricultural, and domestic uses by India, and the three Eastern rivers—Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej—were allocated to India for unrestricted usage.
  • Dispute resolution: The PIC is an established mechanism under the IWT, which mandates it to establish and maintain cooperative arrangements for the implementation of the water distribution pact and to promote cooperation between India and Pakistan in the development of the Indus water systems. The meeting of the PIC is held alternately in India and Pakistan at least once every year as mandated by the treaty.
  • Uneasiness in Pakistan: There is uneasiness in the minds of Pakistan’s leadership regarding the terms of IWT. It is sceptical about the terms of the treaty and fears whether the Indian projects on the western rivers, in particular Jhelum and Chenab conform to the technical stipulations. Being a lower riparian state, the scepticism has led Pakistan to maintain high troop levels and alertness around the canals on the eastern front, fearing that India will try to take control of the western rivers.
  • Continuity: The treaty has remained ‘uninterrupted’ because India respects its signatory and values transboundary rivers as an important connector in the region in terms of both diplomacy and economic prosperity.

What are the concerns regarding the treaty?

  • Renegotiation: India feels that the treaty be modified as India is being too generous on water sharing. The treaty also prevents India from building any storage systems on the western rivers.
  • Pakistan objections: Pakistan has raised concerns regarding the Kishanganga dam project, Ratle hydroelectric power project alleging that these projects violate a provision of IWT.
  • Food and energy needs: IWT is unlikely to address the growing industrial needs related to food and energy of 2 countries. The modified version of IWT should incorporate mechanisms that allow flexibility to change in the quantity of water available for allocation among the parties.
  • Climate Change: The Indus Basin’s size and volume are getting altered by climate change, instances of more high-intensity rainfall, long stretches of scanty rainfall & high influx of water due to glacial melt.  A change in the flow conditions may be classified as a ‘change of circumstances’ that can justify renegotiation or termination in the future.


Both nations should hold timely meetings of PIC which serve as a forum for exchange of information on the rivers, for continued cooperation, and as a first stop for resolution of conflict. IWT does not have a unilateral exit provision and is supposed to remain in force unless both countries ratify another mutually agreed pact.

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