Implementation of Indus Water Treaty-1960 | By Dr Muhammad Khan


Implementation of Indus Water Treaty-1960

ON October 29, 2022, Pakistan’s Ambassador to United Nations, Mr MunirAkram emphasized UN to play decisive role towards implementation of the Indus Water Treaty-1960 in letter and spirit and through a mutually agreed cooperative mechanism.

The implementation mechanism of Indus Water Treaty (IWT)-1960 has been under serious criticism ever since India started manipulating the water of three western rivers whose water is exclusively meant for Pakistan.

Indeed, India has always interpreted the treaty for its own benefit and constructed water related facilities all along the western rivers which go against the essence of IWT-1960.

The ambassador made this demand in the perspective that, despite many rounds of talks over IWT-1960, India has violated the treaty which seriously affects availability of water for its agriculture as well as drinking water requirements.

Pakistan has one of the largest irrigation systems in the world and “most of its freshwater resources are trans-boundary and therefore needed to be managed in a cooperative manner”.

The Pakistani demand for the implementation of IWT-1960 in letter and spirit came at a time once; World Bank announced appointment of two experts to review the implementation process of the treaty.

In that perspective, Pakistani demand is timely and need serious consideration by UN and World Banks.

The two appointees; Michel Lino (Neutral Expert) and Prof Sean Murphy (Chairman of the Court of Arbitration) will undertake their duties in their individual capacities.

These two honorable members will have a decisive role to re-orient and restore the issues related to IWT-1960 in its original form and thereafter ensuring implementation process which is otherwise mentioned in the treaty.

Since India has become and started behaving as a monster in the South Asia, therefore, as a guarantor of IWT-1960 World Bank has the decisive role to play towards implementation of this treaty.

The Pakistani demand for the implementation of IWT-1960 includes; “Living Indus” initiative with 25 components covering; sustainable development, zero carbon projects, restoring biodiversity, coastal zone management, expanding geographical outreach, and scaling up ecosystem-based approaches.

Unfortunately, in first two-decades of 21st Century, India successfully constructed three major dams along western rivers in violation of IWT-1960: a) 330 Megawatt project on Neelum River (tributary of Jhelum River) b) The 850 MW Ratle Hydroelectric power Plant on Chenab River in IIOJK, c) 900 MW Baglihar Dam (Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project) on Chenab River in IIOJK.

Pakistan lost its cases against these projects at international forums, mainly owing to poor homework, unprofessional and compromising approach of officials related with this process and above all owing to criminal negligence of successive governments.

Indeed, India has constructed dozens of water dams, storages and hydroelectric power projects on the western rivers, exclusively reserved for Pakistan.

As per satellite imagery and other authentic sources, ‘India is in different phases of planning or construction of some 60 storages of varying capacity over the Indus Rivers system.’

This process allowed India a leverage of water manipulation (increase / decrease in downstream flow) as per its convenience, ignoring the Pakistani needs of water.

As per past practices, India has been manipulating the flow of water, allowing reduced water down stream flow during irrigation and increase flow during monsoon, thus causing flood in low laying areas of Pakistan.

There are two different of interpretation of IWT-1960 by India and Pakistan. In the Pakistani interpretation, the water of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are exclusively reserved for Pakistan; therefore, India has no right over their water.

The Indian interpretation however differs and it considers that IWT allows other uses of the water of these rivers like; construction of hydro-electric plants, dams and even water storages. In essence, the IWT allows a limited uses of water to upper riparian, not the one, India has exercised in last three decades.

There is also a provision in the IWT, binding India to leave a certain amount of water in the eastern rivers for the maintenance of environment along the old bed of eastern rivers.

India does not leave water in these eastern rivers as mentioned in the IWT-1960, except during monsoon to flood Pakistan, each year.

Although, the ‘World Bank’ has been facilitating both countries for adhering the treaty in good faith and with complete impartiality and transparency, the Indian attitude has been against the implementation of treaty in letter and spirit.

The gradual constriction of dams, hydroelectric projects and water storages are aimed controlling the water sources of western rivers and compelling Pakistan either to accept the Indian hegemony or else request the World Banks for arbitration which has always gone against Pakistan.

Over the years, the Indian strategy; its farsightedness, a proper homework, dedicated national approach, superior diplomacy and an effective lobbying has made possible for it to implement what it is against the essence of the IWT-1960.

Internationally, a situation has arrived where legal view point of Pakistan is turned-down and illegal Indian stance has acceptability.

On the sensitive issues like water, there has been criminal negligence by the officials deputed for this job and even the successive governments.

The State of Pakistan and the Government must devise strategies to effectively counter the Indian water aggression and secure the water of western rivers for its own usage through a workable mechanism of implementation of IWT-1960.

The new appointees of the World Bankwill have to address the serious Pakistani reservations over the implementation process of IWT-1960.

They can do it while remaining well within their jurisdictional mandate and maintaining a total sincerity and impartiality.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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