Published: 23rd March 2021
What the FAQ: What is the Indus Waters Treaty all about and why is it important for India and Pakistan?
Here's all that you need to know about the Indus Water Treaty, its history and its impact on both India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan will be holding talks under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) today and tomorrow. While the talks are generally held annually by the Indus commissioners of both countries, last year's meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Here, we explain what it is all about, its history and relevance.
1. What is the Indus Waters Treaty?
The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank. It was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960, by the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan President Ayub Khan. According to the treaty, India has control over the waters of the three eastern rivers — the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej with a mean annual flow of 33 million acre-feet, while Pakistan has control over the western rivers — the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum with a mean annual flow of 80 MAF.
2. What was the need for the treaty?
During the British rule in India, large canal systems were constructed, and old canal systems and inundation channels were revived and modernised. But after the partition in 1947, the water system was also bifurcated, with the headworks in India and the canals running through Pakistan. In 1948, India began withholding water from canals that flowed into Pakistan. There were several attempts at negotiations, but neither side was willing to compromise. In 1951, David Lilienthal, former head of both the Tennessee Valley Authority and the US Atomic Energy Commission, visited the region for the purpose of researching articles. He suggested that India and Pakistan should work toward an agreement to jointly develop and administer the Indus River system with advice and funding from the World Bank. Eugene Black, who was then the president of the World Bank, agreed.
3. Have there been threats to revoke the treaty?
After the 2016 Uri attack, the massive grenade attacks carried out by four Pakistani terrorists near the town of Uri in India, India threatened to revoke the Indus Waters Treaty. Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared, 'blood and water cannot flow together.' However, so far, it has not materialised.
4. What will the talks include?
Pakistan is expected to raise objections on the design of the Indian hydropower projects on the Chenab river whose water is largely assigned to Pakistan, according to the Indus Waters Treaty.