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Post The Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan

The Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan

The Indo-Pakistani dispute over the sharing of the Indus River system has not been as contentious as one would expect it to have been. The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan is cited as one of the few examples of successful resolution of a major dispute over an international river basin. It is the largest, contiguous irrigation system in the world, with a command area of about 20 million hectares and annual irrigation capacity of over 12 million hectares. The partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 put the headwater of the basin in India, while Pakistan received the lower part of the basin. A serious dispute over the river waters occurred in 1948, when India halted water supplies to some Pakistani canals at the start of the summer irrigation season.

The ensuing negotiations between the two countries did not resolve the problem. The water flow cut off by India affected 5.5 per cent of Pakistan’s irrigated area and put tremendous strains on the new country. After nine years of negotiations, the Indus Waters Treaty was finally signed on September 19, 1960, with the cooperation of the World Bank.

The salient features of the Indus Waters Treaty are:

•Three Eastern rivers namely Ravi, Sutlej and Beas were given to India.

•Three Western rivers, Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were given to Pakistan.

•Pakistan to meet the requirements of its Eastern river canals from the Western rivers by constructing replacement works.

•Safeguards incorporated in the treaty to ensure unrestricted flow of waters in the Western rivers.

•Both parties were to regularly exchange flow-data of rivers, canals and streams.

•A permanent Indus Waters Commission was constituted to resolve the disputes between the parties. The Treaty sets out the procedure for settlement of the differences and disputes. It also provides for settlement of disputes through the International Court of Arbitration.

Thus, future prospects persuaded the two countries to agree to a partition of the Indus Basin waters. Both countries were expected to exploit their respective water shares with the help of an Indus Basin Development Fund to be administered by the World Bank.

Wular Barrage Issue

Despite the signing of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, another dispute emerged in 1985, when Pakistan learnt through a tender notice in the Indian press about the development of a barrage by the name of Tulbul Navigational Project. The barrage was to be constructed by India on River Jhelum, below the Wular Lake located near Sopore, 25 km north of Srinagar, where the river Jhelum flows into the Lake in the South and flows out of it from the West. For Pakistan the geostrategic importance of the site lies in the fact that its possession and control provides India with the means to intimidate Pakistan. A Dam on that site has the potential to ruin the entire system of the triple canal project within Pakistan namely, the upper Jhelum Canal, upper Chenab Canal and the lower Bari Doab Canal.

According to the Indian Government, the purpose of the Wular Barrage was to construct a control structure, with a view to improving the navigation in the River Jhelum during winters, in order to connect Srinagar with Baramula for transportation of fruits and timber.

India claimed that 90 percent of the Tulbul project would be beneficial to Pakistan, as it would regulate the supply to Mangla Dam, which would increase Pakistan’s capacity of power generation at Mangla, as well as regulate the irrigation network in the Pakistani Punjab through the triple canal system.10 India further suggested that Pakistan should bear the greater share of constructing the Barrage, as it would be more beneficial to Pakistan, and would be especially effective in reducing the flow of water during the flood season.

Pakistan, on the other hand, argued that India had violated Article I (11) of the Indus Waters Treaty, which prohibits both parties from undertaking any ‘manmade obstruction’ that may cause ‘change in the volume É of the daily flow of waters’. Further that Article III (4) specifically barred India, from ‘storing any water of, or construct any storage works on, the Western Rivers’.

According to sub-paragraph 8(h) of the Indus Waters Treaty, India is entitled to construct an ‘incidental storage work’ on Western rivers on its side:

•only after the design has been scrutinised and approved by Pakistan; and

•Its storage capacity should not exceed 10,000 acres feet of water.

Whereas the Wular Barrage’s capacity is 300,000 acres feet, which is thirty times more than the permitted capacity. Regarding the building of a hydro electric plant, according to the Treaty, India is only allowed to construct a small run-off water plant with a maximum discharge of 300 cusecs through the turbines which are insufficient to generate 960 Megawatts of electricity as planned by India.

Bilateral Negotiations

Pakistan referred the Wular Barrage case to the Indus Waters Commission in 1986, which, in 1987, recorded its failure to resolve it. When India suspended the construction work, Pakistan did not take the case in the International Arbitral Court. To date, eight rounds of talks have been held. In 1989, Pakistan agreed to build a barrage conditional to Pakistani inspection, which India rejected.

The two sides almost reached an agreement in October 1991, whereby India would keep 6.2 meters of the barrage ungated with a crest level of 1574.90m (5167 ft), and would forego the storage capacity of 300,000 acre feet. In return, the water level in the Barrage would be allowed to attain the full operational level of 5177.90 ft. However, in February 1992, Pakistan added another condition that India should not construct the Kishenganga (390 MW) hydropower-generating unit. India refused to accept this condition.

According to Pakistan, the Kishenganga project on River Neelam affected its own Neelam-Jhelum power-generating project, located in its Punjab province. The issue of Wular Barrage was one of the disputes on the agenda highlighted for the Indo-Pak talks, both at the Lahore meeting in February 1999, and at the Agra Summitof July 2001.

Implications for Pakistan

The control of the River Jhelum by India through a storage work would mean:

•A serious threat to Pakistan should India decide to withhold the water over an extended period, especially during the dry season. It would also multiply and magnify the risks of floods and droughts in Pakistan. The Mangla Dam on River Jhelum, which is a source of irrigation and electricity for Punjab, would be adversely affected.

•Provide India a strategic edge, during a military confrontation, enabling it to control the mobility and retreat of Pakistani troops and enhancing the maneuverability of Indian troops. Closing the Barrage gates would render the Pakistani canal system dry and easy to cross. During the 1965 war, the Indian Army failed to cross the BRB Link Canal, due to its full swing flow. India is already in control of the Chenab River through Salal Dam constructed in 1976. Many Pakistanis criticise the conceding of the Salal Dam to India.
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