South Asia

'Compelled by Pakistan's Actions,' India Calls for Indus Waters Treaty Modification

Sources said the problem began with Pakistan seeking two parallel processes to iron out the differences between the two nations on India’s Kishenganga and Ralte hydro-electric projects.

New Delhi: India has dashed off a notice to Pakistan, calling for the modification of the Indus Waters Treaty – “compelled” by Islamabad’s initiation of two parallel processes to iron out the creases between the neighbours on water sharing.

According to official sources in New Delhi, the notice was issued through respective commissioners (heading the Permanent Indus Commissions) on January 25 as per Article XII of the Treaty. The Indus Waters Treaty was signed between the two neighbours in September 1960 to facilitate smooth distribution of water in the Indus Water System. 

Sources said, “The objective of the notice for modification is to provide Pakistan an opportunity to enter into inter-governmental negotiations within 90 days to rectify the material breach of IWT. This process would also update IWT to incorporate the lessons learned over the last 62 years.”

Highlighting that India has always been a steadfast supporter and responsible partner in implementing the water distribution treaty “in letter and spirit”, the sources said, “Pakistan’s actions, however, have adversely impinged on the provisions of the treaty and their implementation, and forced India to issue an appropriate notice for modification of IWT.”

With the World Bank’s intervention, every year, a delegation from the respective commissions visits the countries alternately for an annual meeting to discuss cooperation on the Indus River System as prescribed in the Article VIII of the Treaty.

Sources said the problem began with Pakistan’s “intransigence,” displayed in its seeking of two parallel processes to iron out differences.

Also read: Sixty Years of the Indus Waters Treaty and How It Survived Many a Fraught Moment

“In 2015, Pakistan requested for appointment of a neutral expert to examine its technical objections to India’s Kishenganga and Ralte Hydro Electric Projects. In 2016, Pakistan unilaterally retracted this request and proposed that a court of arbitration adjudicate on its objections.”

Tribune reported that the Kishenganga is a 330-megawatt project on the Jhelum and the Ralte is a 850p-megawatt project on the Chenab.

However, unilateral projects threaten to hurt the treaty. The report says:

The Treaty designates these two rivers, as well as the Indus, as the “Western Rivers” to which Pakistan has unrestricted use with some exceptions. Under the Treaty, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers, subject to constraints specified in Annexures to the Treaty.

India, thereafter, made a separate request to the World Bank for the matter to be referred to a neutral expert.

The sources said, the World Bank in 2016, acknowledged “Pakistan’s initiation of two simultaneous processes on the same questions” and took a decision to “pause” it, requesting both the parties to seek an amicable way out of it.

Calling Pakistan’s move “inconsistent” which risks endangering the treaty itself, the sources in the government said, “Despite repeated efforts by India to find a mutually agreeable way forward, Pakistan refused to discuss the issue during the five meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission from 2017 to 2022.”  

Just recently, the World Bank, though, at Pakistan’s behest, initiated actions on both the neutral expert and court of arbitration processes. This broke a six-year deadlock.

India’s objection on the matter is that “such parallel consideration of the same issues is not covered under any provision of the IWT.” 

The sources thus said that faced with “such violation of IWT provisions, India has been compelled to issue the notice of modification.”