The Indus River has deep importance in the history of several ancient civilizations that existed at the beginning of Kalyuga. Deriving its historical backdrop, the Indus river has been providing water to several Asian economies since the pre-independence period. 

The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was formed in the year 1954 on the recommendations of the World Bank. Signed between India and Pakistan under the leadership of PM Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ayub Khan respectively. 

The Indus waters are of utmost significance for India, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The Indus River that originates from Tibet was blocked by India to prevent Pakistani consumption in 1948. Leading to a ceasefire, in 1951. The Pakistani government approached the United Nations council with the matter. The UN, in consultation with the World Bank, drew guidelines that formed as a basis for an agreement between the two nations. 

Implemented the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was officially from September 19, 1960. 

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Provision of the Indus Waters Treaty

The treaty sets out the guidelines to use the Indus River and its five tributaries between India and Pakistan. According to the treaty, India got hold of all the eastern rivers of Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej for unrestricted consumption.

On the other hand, Pakistan got control of the western rivers of Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum. As per the treaty, India could still use the western rivers for domestic and non-consumption needs of storage, irrigation purposes, and electricity generation. 

As mentioned, it prevented and demanded both the nations not to cause any materialistic harm to one another. Moreover, in the case of flood protection and flood control schemes, both the countries will address the treaty rules.

Apart from the above, the treaty allowed the free use of excess waters to prevent floods. This was to no limitations by any of the parties.

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Issues related to IWT

Since its inception, there have been certain cases of violation imposed by parties on one another. 

– In 2016, Pakistan approached the World Bank regarding India’s Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power projects in J&K. India addressing Pakistan’s concerns demanded a proper inspection of the plants. World Bank accepted Pakistan’s concerns on technical grounds and didn’t require an arbitration body.

– In the light of Uri attacks in India, PM Modi condemned the use of Indus waters by Pakistan. This cold war was in light of Pakistan’s support for terrorism. The Central government held that it will have to rethink the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty in such a condition. 

– Many experts held the belief that the signing of the treaty should be held by the head of the state aka the President. In India’s case, it was PM Jawaharlal Nehru who signed the treaty in 1960. Thus, it does not hold any legal political importance.

– In order to retaliate the Pulwama attacks, the Indian government decided to stop the flow of Indus waters into Pakistan territory. Diversion of the waters will be into the states of Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan. 

– GOI undertook many projects, in order to prevent the flow of excess waters into Pakistan.

These are some of the issues that were raised in recent times viewing the current Inter-state relation between both the nations.

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India’s view on IWT

Many Indian bureaucrats are of the opinion that the Indus Waters Treaty is biased and much inclined in favor of Pakistan.  However, Indians will have to face the terms of the treaty are not followed. 

Certain important areas are:-

– India cannot solely differ with the terms of the treaty as the UN council does not allow for unilateral abrogation.

– Even if the country decides to back off, this will hamper India’s relation with other neighboring countries on grounds of treaties signed with them.

– Retaliating in such a way will only worsen the whole terrorism scenario with Pakistan. 

– Moreover, viewing the current Chinese support to Pakistan, China can stop the flow of Brahmaputra in Assam. Thus, impacting agricultural activities directly in the state. 

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We have sincerely prepared this note to get our UPSC aspirants with the history of the Indus Waters Treaty. Following the opinions of various experts, GOI should follow the terms of the treaty in the years to come. 

Moreover, on the above issues concerning the Indian Territory having a deep discussion. India should also view that it might lose the chance of sitting in the UNSC if it takes strict actions against Pakistan on any matter regarding IWT.


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