In the aftermath of the Uri terror attack, the Narendra Modi Government has indicated that the five-decade old Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan, which was considered to be one of the most successful water sharing agreements of the world so far, might be scrapped.
On Monday, Prime Minister Modi held a meeting with top officials to discuss the future course of action to be taken while the Supreme Court was urged to hear a plea challenging the constitutional and legal validity of the treaty.
Well, the agreement dates back to September 19, 1960, when the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and the then President of Pakistan Ayub Khan signed the Indus Waters Treaty in Karachi. As per the agreement, three "eastern rivers"—Beas, Ravi and Sutlej—are allocated to India for use of water without restriction and three "western rivers"—Indus, Chenab and Jhelum—are given to Pakistan. In addition, India can construct storage facilities on "western rivers" of up to 3.6 million acre feet. India is also allowed agriculture use of 7 lakh acres above the irrigated cropped area as on April 1, 1960.
The World Bank, which was then known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, brokered the agreement between the neighbouring countries.
Interestingly, Indus and Sutlej originate in China. Pakistan is allowed to use Indus water, but it flows through India to enter the country. However, experts suggest that the treaty is lopsided with India being allowed to use only 20 per cent of the water of Indus for irrigation, transport and power generation.
The treaty was signed as Pakistan feared that India could potentially create droughts in case of a war between the two countries. A Permanent Indus Commission set up in this connection provides a bilateral mechanism for consultation and conflict-resolution through inspections, exchange of data between the two countries.
Till now India has not made use of the provision to construct storage facilities on "western rivers" of up to 3.6 million acre feet. If India decides to do so, then Pakistan is bound to get the message that it cannot be a "one-sided affair" anymore. The fact that Pakistan’s irrigation is majorly dependent on the water of Indus river might make the matter worse for it in case India tinkers with the status quo.