Cross the boulders in the Indus Waters Treaty

Source– The post is based on the article “Cross the boulders in the Indus Waters Treaty”, Published in “The Hindu” on 31st August 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – International Relations – Bilateral groupings and agreements

Relevance: India and Pakistan bilateral relationship

News– The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), brokered by the World Bank, which has again become a source of contention between India and Pakistan, considerably encapsulates the principle of equitable allocation rather than the principle of appreciable harm.

What are some facts about the Indus water treaty?

India and Pakistan are both granted exclusive privileges to utilise the waters from their designated rivers without causing harm to the interests of others.

According to the Indus Waters Treaty, India possesses unrestricted rights over Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej. Pakistan holds similar entitlements over Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab.

India has been authorised to store a total of 3.60 million-acre feet (MAF) of water (0.40 MAF on the Indus, 1.50 MAF on the Jhelum, and 1.70 MAF on the Chenab).

What are contentious issues between India and Pakistan regarding IWT?

The current focal point of contention between India and Pakistan revolves around India’s Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants located in the Jammu and Kashmir region.

India views these projects as essential for meeting its energy requirements and fostering regional development. Pakistan alleged violations of the treaty and potential adverse impacts on its water supply.

The Kishanganga project dispute was brought before the Court of Arbitration in 2010. The CoA delivered its final verdict in 2013.

CoA determined that the Kishanganga hydroelectric project constitutes a run-of-the-river dam. India, under the IWT, is permitted to divert water from the Kishanganga/Neelum River for power generation.

The court specified that India must maintain a minimum water flow of nine cubic metres per second in the Kishanganga river.

Following the CoA’s decision, the two nations reached an agreeable resolution on only one of the four issues that were anticipated to be settled.

Despite numerous discussions, the other three matters related to pondage and spillway configuration remained unresolved.

As a result, Pakistan appealed to the World Bank. It accused India of breaching the IWT and the court’s ruling. Pakistan also voiced objections to the Ratle project.

In 2016, Pakistan requested the World Bank to establish a CoA. It prompted India to propose the appointment of a neutral expert to address the dispute.

The World Bank halted progress on the Kishanganga and Ratle projects to explore alternative ways by two countries to resolve their disagreements.

Despite the pause, work on the Kishanganga project persisted. In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated it. Pakistan raised its concerns with the World Bank.

In October 2022, the World Bank designated Michel Lino as the neutral expert and Professor Sean Murphy as the Chairman of the CoA.

On July 6, 2023, the Permanent Court of Arbitration unanimously dismissed India’s objections and confirmed its authority to address and resolve the disputes brought by Pakistan.

India has chosen not to engage in the PCA proceedings and was absent from the recent hearing as well. India asserted that it cannot be forced to acknowledge or participate in unlawful and concurrent proceedings not stipulated by the Treaty.

What should be done?

Rather than resorting to legal action, the focus should be on integrating the principles of “equitable and reasonable utilisation” as well as the “no harm rule” into the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).

This incorporation necessitates improved relations and enduring trust between India and Pakistan.

The involvement of local stakeholders in any negotiation process on shared water matters between India and Pakistan is crucial.

The establishment of a collaborative team comprising experts in technology, climate, water management, and scientific fields from both countries could be effective in addressing the root of the problem.

To ensure the effectiveness of the IWT, the exploration of cooperative arrangements is essential. Both countries must acknowledge their shared interest in the optimal development of the Indus River System.

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