The Indus Waters Treaty, and why India has issued notice to Pakistan seeking changes

Source: The post is based on the following articles

“The Indus Waters Treaty, and why India has issued notice to Pakistan seeking changes” published in Indian Express on 28th January 2023

“River Bends – Pakistan should stop subverting the Indus Water Treaty” published in The Times of India on 28th January 2023

What is the News?

India has issued a notice to Pakistan seeking modification of the more than six-decade-old Indus Waters Treaty(IWT) that governs the sharing of waters of six rivers in the Indus system between the two countries. 

What is the Indus Water Treaty?

Click Here to read

What is the dispute over the hydel projects?

The notice appears to be a fallout of a longstanding dispute over two hydroelectric power projects that India is constructing – the Kishanganga hydroelectric project on the Kishanganga river, a tributary of Jhelum and Ratle Hydroelectric Plant on the Chenab.

Pakistan has raised objections to these projects, and dispute resolution mechanisms under the Treaty have been invoked multiple times. But a full resolution has not been reached.

In 2015, Pakistan asked that a Neutral Expert should be appointed to examine its technical objections to the Hydel projects. 

But in 2016, Pakistan retracted the request and approached the World Bank seeking the constitution of a Court of Arbitration under the relevant dispute redressal provisions of the Treaty.

Instead of responding to Pakistan’s request for a Court of Arbitration, India moved a separate application asking for the appointment of a Neutral Expert. India had argued that Pakistan’s request for a Court of Arbitration violated the graded mechanism of dispute resolution in the Treaty.

What exactly is the dispute resolution mechanism under the treaty?

The dispute redressal mechanism provided under the treaty is a graded mechanism.

There are three possible steps to decide on objections raised by either side: 1) working within the “Permanent Indus Commission” (PIC) of the Indian and Pakistani delegation of water experts that meet regularly, 2) consulting a World Bank-appointed neutral expert or 3) setting up a court process to adjudicate the case through the World Bank and the Permanent Court of Arbitrage(PCA).

India has held that each step must be fully exhausted before both sides agree to move on to the next step. Pakistan had moved on without waiting for India’s concurrence.

Why has India sent notice to Pakistan?

The immediate trigger for India to send the notice to Pakistan was to address the issue of two parallel mechanisms for a solution to the differences over the Hydel projects.

Under the pact, any difference needs to be resolved under a three-stage approach. However, in the case of the Kishenganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Projects, the World Bank started two concurrent dispute redressal processes at the insistence of Pakistan, which India felt was a breach of the IWT.

Hence, under such circumstances, India has issued a “notice of modification” of the Indus Water Treaty. 

However, an amendment or modification can happen only through a duly ratified Treaty concluded for that purpose between the two governments. Pakistan is under no obligation to agree to India’s proposal.

As of now, it is not clear what happens if Pakistan does not respond to India’s notice within the 90-day period.

Print Friendly and PDF