Indus Waters Treaty

Indus Waters Treaty

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Indus Waters Treaty”. The topic “Indus Waters Treaty” has relevance in the International Relations  section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

About the Indus Waters Treaty ?

For Mains:

GS 2: International Relations

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms?

Hydroelectric Project Dispute Between India and Pakistan?

About Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)?

Why in the news?

Pakistan has expressed the hope that India would implement the Indus Waters Treaty in “good faith” after New Delhi said it cannot be compelled to participate in “illegal” proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the Kishenganga and Ratle hydropower projects in Kashmir.

About IWT

The Indus Waters Treaty is a bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan, facilitated by the World Bank, signed on September 19, 1960. It governs the utilization and sharing of water resources from the Indus River system, encompassing six rivers: Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej. The primary objective of the treaty is to foster collaboration and peaceful management of transboundary water resources between the two countries. It provides a framework for the allocation and use of these rivers, promoting equitable distribution and preventing disputes over water. The treaty plays a crucial role in ensuring water security and fostering cooperation between India and Pakistan.

Allocation of Rivers:

  • Three rivers (Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej) in the eastern part were allocated to India for unrestricted use.
  • Three rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) in the western part were allocated to Pakistan for unrestricted use.
  • India allowed the use of the western rivers for domestic, non-consumptive, and agricultural purposes.

Construction of Projects:

The agreement allows India to build run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects on the western rivers, but this is contingent upon specific conditions.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms:

Communication via Permanent Indus Commission (PIC):

  • The PIC consists of a commissioner from each country.
  • Parties inform each other about planned projects on the Indus River.
  • PIC facilitates the exchange of necessary information.
  • Aimed at resolving differences and avoiding escalation.

Neutral Expert:

  • If the PIC fails to resolve the issue, it advances to the next level.
  • The World Bank appoints a neutral expert.
  • The expert attempts to resolve the differences between the parties.

Court of Arbitration (CoA):

  • If a neutral expert fails to resolve the dispute, it goes to the CoA.
  • The CoA resolves the dispute through arbitration.
  • The IWT states that the Neutral Expert and CoA steps are mutually exclusive, meaning that only one of them can be used at a time for a given dispute.
  • Note: The following information does not fit under the headings as requested.


Hydroelectric Project Dispute Between India and Pakistan:

  • The dispute involves the Kishanganga hydroelectric project on the Kishanganga River and the Ratle hydroelectric project on the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Pakistan objects to these projects, claiming violations of the Indus Waters Treaty, concerns about reduced water flow, environmental impact, and differing treaty interpretations.
  • In 2016, Pakistan withdrew its request for a Neutral Expert and proposed a Court of Arbitration instead.
  • India opposes the constitution of the CoA, arguing that it contravenes the provisions of the IWT.


World Bank Intervention:

  • The World Bank, which brokered the IWT, intervened in the dispute.
  • The bank paused the process after receiving separate requests from India and Pakistan, urging resolution through the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC), the communication mechanism established by the treaty.
  • Pakistan refused to discuss the issue during PIC meetings, prompting the World Bank to initiate actions on the appointment of a Neutral Expert and the establishment of a CoA.


India’s Opposition:

  • India opposed the constitution of the CoA, arguing that it contravened the provisions of the IWT.
  • India raised concerns about the jurisdiction and competence of the Court of Arbitration (CoA), asserting that it was not appropriately constituted in accordance with the provisions of the treaty. 
  • India did not appoint arbitrators or attend the court’s proceedings, emphasizing the need for a single dispute resolution process.


Ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration:

  • The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has issued a ruling stating that the Court of Arbitration (CoA) has the jurisdiction to address Pakistan’s objections regarding India’s hydroelectric projects.
  • The ruling was unanimous, binding on both parties, and not subject to appeal.
  • The PCA rejected India’s objections to the competence of the CoA, as raised through its communications with the World Bank.


India’s Response:

India has maintained that it will not participate in the proceedings at the PCA, arguing that the dispute is already being examined by a Neutral Expert under the framework of the IWT.

About Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

  • The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is an intergovernmental organization established in 1899 and based in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • Its purpose is to serve the international community in the field of dispute resolution and facilitate arbitration and other forms of dispute settlement between states.
  • The PCA has a three-part organizational structure:
  1. Administrative Council: Responsible for overseeing policies and budgets.
  2. Members of the Court: A panel of independent potential arbitrators.
  3. International Bureau: The Secretariat of the PCA, headed by the Secretary-General.
  • The PCA operates a Financial Assistance Fund aimed at helping developing countries cover some of the costs involved in international arbitration or other dispute settlement procedures offered by the PCA.


Q.1 Which of the following rivers are allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty?

(A) Ravi and Beas

(B) Indus and Jehlum

(C) Chenab and Sutlej

(D) Ravi and Chenab

Answer: (B) 

Q.2 Which organization facilitated the negotiation and signing of the Indus Waters Treaty?

(A) United Nations

(B) World Trade Organization

(C) World Bank

(D) International Monetary Fund

Answer: (C) 

Q.3 Explain the key provisions and significance of the Indus Waters Treaty in promoting cooperation and managing transboundary water resources between India and Pakistan.

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