Is Indus Waters Treaty under siege?

Is Indus Waters Treaty under siege

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1- Introduction

  • ✓The Indus Waters Treaty is under the penumbra of siege, because India has issued a notice to Pakistan for some modification in the treaty’s provisions.

2- What is the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)?

3- What are the major reasons behind the Indus Waters Treaty’s siege?

  • ✓The sharing amount of water during droughts
  • ✓The maintenance and repair of canals
  • ✓The major differences in the construction of hydro projects

4- What measures can make the treaty out of siege?

  • ✓By managing the Indus Basin water resources
  • ✓By improving transparency through regular visits
  • ✓By promoting transboundary water management
  • ✓By updating the treaty for addressing the rising challenges
  • ✓By joining hands for cooperation and coordination for collective management

5- Critical analysis

6- Conclusion


Treaties are indispensable to rooting out conflicts between two opposite parties. They end the threat of war and assure peace, prosperity, and stability throughout the world. Similarly, Pakistan and India, the South Asian countries, signed a treaty, namely the Indus water treaty, to end their deadlock about water distribution. However, after decades of the treaty, it seems to be under siege today.There are some divergent points that lead to the disagreement between both countries, which include the sharing amount of water during droughts, the maintenance and repair of canals, and the major differences over the construction of hydro projects. However, some sagacious measures, such as building an atmosphere of coordination between the two for the joint management of the Indus Basin water resources, improving transparency through frequent visits, promoting transboundary water management, and updating the treaty for addressing the arising challenges. And indeed, the way forwards, if implemented, can play a significant role to make the Indus Water Treaty out of siege.

What is the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)?

The IWT was signed on September 19, 1960, between the two rival states, India and Pakistan. The treaty determines rights and obligations concerning the uses of water in the Indus River system. According to the treaty, three eastern river-Basins, Ravi, and Sutlej- along with 40 billion cubic meters of water, were given under the control of India. On the other hand, three western rivers -Indus, Chenab, and Jehlum- along with 218 billion cubic meters of water were given under the control of Pakistan. From these meters of water, India was given the right to use water for domestic ends, agricultural purposes, and, more controversially, power generation grounds. Significantly, India is not allowed to alter the course of these rivers.

3-What are the major reasons behind the Indus Waters Treaty’s siege?

Here discussed some important points that became the cause of differences between India and Pakistan, which led to such an extent that this successful treaty now seems under threat.

  • The shared amount of water during droughts

The first point that becomes the bone of contentions between both countries is the different approaches over the interpretations of the treaty’s provisions. Both countries have different interpretations of the rights and obligations of sharing water resources. The main header in this regard is the amount of shared water during droughts. India claimed that the treaty did not make any type of ordaining for releasing water from reservoirs during the draught’s time. While, Pakistan argued that the IWT does demand India for releasing water, whatever the circumstances are. These widely held interpretation differences have ushered the conflict of disagreement between both countries.

  • The maintenance and repair of canals

The second divergent point is related to the repair and maintenance of canals.  While utilizing the water of western rivers, India argues that it is her right to repair and maintain its canals, because it is important for meeting irrigation purposes and the public regular water consumption that live in the areas. On the other hand, Pakistan states that India’s actions for maintenance and civil works have a critical influence on the western rivers, which results in the curtailment of water flow. Thus, it is a direct violation of the IWT. Further, keeping the same points against Indian illegal maintenance, Pakistan has also opposed the construction of Wullar Barrage because it could impact the flow of Jehlum River water.

  • The major differences in the construction of hydro projects

The third and most important disputed point is the construction of hydro projects in India over the Western rivers. The IWT allows India to generate hydropower from the waters of the Western Rivers without altering the flow of water. India has not only constructed hydropower projects but also changed the flow of water. The construction of the 330 MW Kishanganga hydropower project on the Kishanganga and the 850 MW Ratle hydropower project on the Chenab River is clear-cut evidence. Pakistan sues that it clearly constitutes a significant alternation of flow, which is a big threat to the region’s peace and security. So, these two projects become the source of conflicts that have created differences over the treaty’s provisions.

4- What measures can make the treaty out of siege?

From the date signed till today, The IWT has successfully stood the test of time and survived two full fledge wars between India and Pakistan. But, now, the treaty is under siege, which could invite a danger of conflicts between the twin states. However, the friction of conflict could be lessened by focusing on some mutual areas. First, the IWT involves managing the Indus Basin water resources as a whole, rather than focusing on building and maintaining rivers and individual projects. This wide- approach of management will not only result in optimizing the benefits for both countries but also lead to improvement and increase the water security, economic benefits, and environmental sustainability for both countries.

Second, this multi-dimensioned production is needed through communication and improved transparency. Adding to this, the translucency could be set up through regular visits and meetings by officials from both sides. In, strengthening the data sharing over water use and water flow must be prioritized.

Third, for ensuring this water data efficiency, some initiatives need to be adopted as well for promoting transboundary water management. By promoting this, it will allow the transfer of water from one Basin River to another and increase the storage capacity. Consequently, it will improve the governance and sustainable use of water, which will make the treaty more effective and reliable.

Fourth, most importantly, the treaty must be updated according to the changing weather; there must be some special clauses addressing the rising challenges of climate and demographic changes. Although so true that climate change’s extreme form is unusually heavy rain that becomes the cause of a flood. Therefore, if observed, Pakistan is a low-basin country; it has experienced excessive water in the form of high-level floods. Thus, the treaty must undergo some professional institutions with the changing demand of climate.

Last but not least, all these sagacious measures demand joining hands of cooperation and coordination from both sides by putting aside their personal interests. Both countries need joint management, which will not only help to prevent conflicts but also promote collaboration for sharing water benefits.

5- Critical analysis

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, it is clear that IWT has successfully avoided every kind of conflict raised between India and Pakistan. With the availability of water, all the other associated factors become secondary indicators. But with every passing day, it becomes more extravaganzas. Instead of that the IWT has become more improving with the passage of time, and both countries are still on the same page regarding water discord as they were seven and half decades before. Similarly, there are some other factors upon which both countries are suffering, such as food security due to extreme climate changes. Thus, now, it looks right on the need of the hour to focus on a better water management framework to cope with other emerging issues.


To conclude, the IWT plays a significant role in avoiding water-related issues between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, India’s notice of interpretation of the treaty’s provisions has taken both countries on the same page as they were many years ago.   Both countries are still engaged in some kind of water use and transboundary-related disputes. Therefore, to solve the problem, some wide approach solutions have existed that need to be adopted to ensure peace, prosperity, and stability in the region.

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