Pakistan: More On Indus Water Treaty – OpEd


By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Media reports indicate that India has agreed to attend the next session of Indus Water Commission on March 20-21 2017 to be held at Lahore. This will be the 113th session of the Commission and the meeting is being held in Pakistan this time as mandated in the Treaty.

The Indian media has started reading too much into the meeting and the change of mind of India. This change is presumed to be the result of the softening of stand in Pakistan and of all things invitation to Indian Artists to the two art and cultural festivals at Karachi and Lahore is being cited as one of the reasons. Nothing could be farther from truth than this. Worse, the media has even speculated that this will pave the way for the two Prime Ministers to meet on the sidelines during the Shanghai Cooperation meeting in June this year!

Following the September Terror strike at Uri last year, India had decided to suspend the talks and also declared that it would review the Indus Water Treaty. Article VIII of the Indus Water Treaty states that the Indus Water Commission must meet once a year alternatively in India and Pakistan.

The Indian announcement was only about suspension of the talks and not the abrogation of the treaty as such. Yet while a review of the treaty internally was welcome and justified, the suspension of talks was wrong and against the rules laid down in the treaty. To say now that “India is always open to settling issues relating to the pact with Pakistan bilaterally” makes no sense as the pact is purely bilateral and the World Bank was only a facilitator and not a guarantor.

In a way it was good that the Indus Water Treaty came into focus once again after the terror strikes in Uri. Pakistan appears to have been rattled by the Indian decision after the review that India would fully utilise the rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir and exercise India’s full rights under the pact. This statement was long over due and instead of making empty threats, what is needed is to go ahead in building the infra structure necessary to implement the pact to the full. The pact is not flawless as it totally ignores the needs of Jammu and Kashmir. Yet this was the only way that the Indus Waters could have been shared and what was lacking was India’s failure to fully utilise what is legitimately her’s.

Pakistan cannot export terror on one hand and expect India to reciprocate by being generous. It is time to sensitize both the Indian public and the strategic analysts of the importance of the treaty.

One is not surprised by the vehemence of protests from Pakistan both at official and unofficial levels. It may be recalled that Pakistan had arranged in the past protests by the Pak. sponsored Jihadists at the time of the visits of Indian delegation during the meetings of the Indus Water Commission that India was “stealing the waters” that should legitimately go to Pakistan!

Pakistan has been systematically and some times frivolously raising series of technical objections on every project that is being planned on the Indian side. Besides the two projects Kishenganga and Ratle (refer our paper 6226), objections have also been raised on three other projects- Pakal Dul (1000MW), Miyar (120 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) all on Chenab river. In the disputes already settled by the neutral experts on the Baglihar and Kishenganga, it has been established that India is entitled to exploit the “western rivers” flowing into Pakistan for generation of hydro power.

It is suspected that Pakistan’s regular objections to the Indian build schemes under the pact is more to hide and divert their people’s attention from the mismanagement of the dwindling water resources and more seriously the unequal sharing of waters among the provinces. The lower riparian Sind Province is said to be not getting its legitimate quota of water while Punjab the upper riparian takes the major share!

It is in this connection that one should welcome the book “Indus Divided” by Prof. Daniel Haines of Bristol University who appears to have done considerable research on the Indus Water Treaty. Prof. Haines focusses on modern environmental history.

The author maintains that the Indus Water Treaty was a boldly unique solution and this could not be replicated anywhere else, although for a while the US toyed with the idea of applying the same principle of dividing the rivers than the waters in the dispute of sharing Ganga waters with the then East Pakistan.

One should recall that David Lilenthal of Tennesse Valley Authority who was instrumental in getting Indus Treaty hoped that solving Indus Water Sharing “was a necessary first step on the way to a Kashmiri settlement.” It was too simplistic a view and was not perhaps aware of many deep-rooted layers of conflicts between the two countries. Prof. Haines has also disabused the theory that Kashmir dispute is all about Pakistan trying to get control of the head waters of the rivers flowing into Pakistan.

One of the comments from the Pakistan on the book was that the book “highlights the fundamental place that Indus Waters have had in Pakistan and Indian politics since 1947″.

I wish it had been so but it was not. At least now, it should be-So that Pakistan is made to realise as PM Modi had said that Blood and Water do not go together


SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

3 thoughts on “Pakistan: More On Indus Water Treaty – OpEd

  • March 11, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    An outrageouly one sided account of water issue, representing only the Indian view.

    United Nations recognizes that Kashmir is a disputed territory and calls for a plebecite where the people of Kashmir could exercise their right of self determination.

    India continues to occupy the region forcibly and has committed grave human rights violations.

    The Indian government has been accused by Pakistan government of supporting terrorism in Pakistan. In a terrorist a few weeks ago at the sharine of Shehbaz Qalander in Sindh, more than 90 people died. Earlier, the security agencies arrested a serving Indian officer who confessed that he had entered southern Pakistan via Iran to help carry out terrorist attacks.

    Coming to the Indus waters treaty, the Eastern rivers were given to India over which India enjoys complete consumptive use rights. Likewise, the Treaty grants Pakistan consumptive use rights over the three western rivers. India is allowed to generate power from western rivers but it cannot divert the water for consumptive uses or store it for any other purpose except flood protection.

    India has embarked upon dam construction programs whose designs allow water to be stored in ways that imping upon Pakistan’s consumptive use rights. So Pakistan has objected to the designs. These disputes in the past have involved international arbitration.

    Moreover, India plans to construct a series of power projects on these rivers so that the combined pondage capacity could be significant. In the Rabi (winter) season when only 20 percent of annual river flow is available, the combined capacity of these storages could impound a huge proportion of winter water supplies at a time when wheat crop is being planted in Pakistan. This could undermine food security for nearly 200 million Pakistani people.

    India does have a right to generate power from water of the western rivers, it does not have the right to jeoperdize food security by preventing consumptive use of water by Pakistan at a time when water is most needed.

    Unfortunately, Indian track record has not been good, and Pakistani government has criticized India in the past for trying to use water flows in ways that deny Pakistan the uninhibited consumptive use right over waters of western rivers as envisaged under the treaty.

    I believe that there is no inherent conflict between generation of power by India and the consumptive use of water of western rivers by Pakistan. Electricity can be produced only when the water is allowed to flow. It is only when malicious intent is involved that the conflict is created.

    Mr. Modi, the Indian prime minister has risen to power by whipping up anti-muslim and anti- Pakistan hysteria that appealed to his Hindu fundamentalist constituency. He has made outrageous statements about unilaterally cancelling the Indus Waters Treaty. The treaty allows for no such possibility. It is a good thing that India will attend the Indus Commission meeting in Pakistan. Sense seems to have prevailed at least for now. Lets hope for the best.

  • March 12, 2017 at 6:31 am

    Key word here is that Pakistan cannot expect India to be generous when they are exporting terror in return. Repercussions to terror attacks are diverting river water away from Pakistan and continue until they relent.

    • March 13, 2017 at 5:08 am

      It’s not India’s generosity but its own survival at stake. Water is the catalyst that will start a conflict than both countries can barely comprehend. Ideology can be blunted and reshaped but thirst is tantamount to survival and insurmountable. India should be very careful trying to play a card that it will regret with all certainty.


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