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Indus Water Treaty: India's plans and what it means for Pakistan

The government led by Narendra Modi is mulling to ‘revisit’ the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan.

India TV News Desk, New Delhi [ Published on: September 27, 2016 23:53 IST ]
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting to review Indus
Image Source : PTI Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting to review Indus Water Treaty

Under pressure to take decisive action against Pakistan following the terror attack at army camp in Uri, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is mulling to ‘revisit’ the Indus Water Treaty with the neighbouring country.  

At a meeting to review the 56-year-old Indus Water Treaty yesterday, the Prime Minister said that "blood and water cannot flow together," a reference to Pakistan’s support to cross-border terrorism.  

Under the treaty, which was signed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan in September 1960, water of six rivers - Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum - were to be shared between the two countries.  

Pakistan has been complaining about not receiving enough water and gone for international arbitration in a couple of cases.  

The meeting came as India weighed its options to hit back at Pakistan in the aftermath of the Uri attack that left 18 soldiers dead, triggering demands that the government scrap the water distribution pact to mount pressure on that country.  

Several possible actions were deliberated upon in the meeting which was attended by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, the Water Resources Secretary, and senior PMO officials, however no official message was conveyed as what was discussed. 

Here are some of the moves that were discussed in the meeting and how they can affect Islamabad: 

Suspension of meeting of Indus Water Commission 

Official Sources said that the meeting of Indus Water Commission can "only take place in atmosphere free of terror". The Commission meets twice a year and has held 112 meetings so far. Since the treaty was signed in 1960, the commission has failed to hold meetings, even during the period of wars in 1965, 1971 and Kargil wars. 

What it means for Pakistan: 

The Indus Water Treaty provides for three-stage grievance redress and Commission’s meetings are the first platform where these grievances are raised. In case the commission fails to address the grievance, it is referred to neutral expert appointed by the World Bank. If the dispute is not solved at the second stage, grieving party can apply for arbitration by the UN's court of arbitration. 

If the first stage of dispute redressal is suspended, other two stages hold no meaning. This means that Pakistan can not raise any dispute related to the treaty at any level.  

Resuming work of Tulbul navigation project 

India had started constructing a 439-feet-long and 40-feet-wide barrage at the mouth of the Wular Lake to ensure the flow of water in winter to 4,000 cusecs but the work was suspended following objections from Pakistan. 

India started the work around 1984 on the river Jhelum but after Pakistan threatened to move the International Arbitral Court in 1986, the Indian government decided to suspend the work in 1987. 

Pakistan had protested claiming construction of the navigation project also amounted to a violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.

The Indian government's decision to "review" the suspension of construction on the Tulbul navigation project has given it "a geo-strategic edge" on the protracted water-treaty issue with neighbour Pakistan, informed sources claimed.

India says that the project will help better connection between Srinagar and Baramula for transporting fruits, timber and other commodities.

What it means for Pakistan:

Pakistan had expressed fears in 1985-86 that improving navigation in the lake would be to India's advantage due to geographical factors and India's location.

Islamabad feared since 1980s that if a dam -- which it calls as Wular Barrage -- was built, India would be able to create and control the "flow of water" into the Jhelum and that can often result in drought and flood situations "at will" in Pakistani Kashmir, sources said.

Pakistan said "controlled flow of water to the Jhelum" can harm parts of Pakistan.

An inter-ministerial task force

The meeting also decided to set up an inter- ministerial task forces to go into the details and working of the Treaty and look into ways to "exploit to the maximum" the water of Pakistan-controlled western rivers. 

It was decided in the meeting that India will now exploit to the maximum the capacity of three of the Pakistan-controlled rivers in the areas of hydro power, irrigation and storage.

It was also decided to expedite the construction on three dams on River Chenab; Pakul Dul Dam, Sawalkot Dam and Bursar Dam.

On run-of-the-river hydro-electrical projects, the sources said out of 18600 MW capacity, India was only utilising 3034 MW, while projects of 2526 MW capacity were under construction and 5846 MW were at the advanced stage of approval. 

What it means for Pakistan: 

India, a high riparian state, has been very "generous" to Pakistan, a low riparian state, with regard to the water sharing rights as a "goodwill" gesture. 

The decision to build dams on Pakistan-controlled rivers will hinder the uninterrupted flow of water to Pakistan. Building dams would require huge investments from India but it will provide maximum water resources for irrigation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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