Indus Water Commission starts work again

Indus Water Commission is likely to meet in March 2017 for their routine annual meeting. The meeting had been postponed after India declared that blood and water cannot flow together in the wake of terrorist attack in Uri. The Indus Water Treaty was signed in 1960 is a river sharing agreement between India and Pakistan and has worked quite well between the two countries for the last few decades.

Analysis:

Under the Agreement, the control over the three eastern rivers- Beas, Ravi and Sutlej was given to India while control over the three western flowing rivers- Indus, Chenab and Jhelum was given to Pakistan. The World Bank is the designated facilitator for the Agreement. The Indus Treaty does not permit India to build storage dams on western rivers but allows for limited use like power generation. Pakistan has objected to the Baglihar River Project as well as two other similar projects- Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant on Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum and the Ratle project on the Chenab. Pakistan is seeking the help of World Bank for arbitration saying that these projects are not justified under the Treaty. The Indus Water Commission is mandated to meet once a year.

India has followed a twin approach on IWT after the Uri attack. The Prime Minister himself never said that the Treaty was in jeopardy. He said that India would be using all the water assigned to it under the Treaty and for this, some kind of Commission was set up. It was said that the Commission can meet only in a terror free atmosphere. India has moved from that position up to some extent letting the Treaty work.

India’s intention was to send a message and put pressure tactically on Pakistan. Though Pakistan keeps on saying that the Treaty is not enough to safeguard its interests but at the base level, it is well known that Pakistan has an excellent Treaty. The real issue in Pakistan is the mismanagement of water which is not going to be affected even if India fully uses its share of western rivers for non-consumptive purposes. It has to be noted that Pakistan also suffers from water crisis as there has been an increase in country’s population since 1951 and to feed such kind of population, it will require more water. Waters of the entire Chenab river are flowing into the sea. Pakistan’s agriculture is most inefficient in the world.

The Treaty was based on a political premise to ensure Pakistan that it will have enough share of rivers in the hope that Pakistan will shed its hostility towards India which has never been realized. The Treaty is quite unpopular in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as it gives them nothing. Therefore, if the Treaty is renegotiated, India’s claim will only increase. Pakistan has obstructed every single project that has been sought to be built on the western rivers and this way they have actually damaged the Treaty and Indian interests. If dispute resolution mechanisms are allowed to be functioned as being done now, they would largely be in favour of India.

Conclusion:

There is no explicit exit clause to the Treaty and none of the countries may go for it because at the end, all water related issues are sensitive. Pakistan is water stressed but so is India. So, the Treaty is meant to provide a cooperative mechanism and that spirit is important for both countries to follow.

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