The partition of British India resulted in the formation of two separate nations, India and Pakistan. The link has been eclipsed by the immediate violent division, wars, terrorist attacks, and many territorial disputes since its inception.
The Indus Water Pact (IWT) is a water-distribution treaty negotiated by the World Bank (WB) between India and Pakistan to utilise the water available in the Indus River and its tributaries. It was signed in Karachi by then-Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then-Pakistani President Ayub Khan in 1960.
The Treaty grants India jurisdiction over the waters of three “eastern rivers,” the Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej (BRS). Pakistan now controls the waters of the three “western rivers,” the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum. India accounts for around 20% of the total water carried by the Indus system, while Pakistan accounts for 80%.
The accord permits India to use the western river waters for restricted irrigation and unlimited non-consumptive purposes such as power production. India has the unlimited right to create hydroelectricity through run-of-the-river (RoR) projects on western rivers, subject to particular design and operating conditions.
The IWT’s dispute resolution procedure is a three-tiered system with three levels of resolution. According to the IWT, anytime India decides to undertake a project, it must notify Pakistan. Concerns must be addressed in a tiered manner at the levels of the Indus Commissioners Neutral Expert Court of Arbitration.
The problem with hydropower projects: Pakistan has maintained its request for third-party mediation, while India has reiterated its desire to reconsider the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).
India said that Pakistan’s “intransigence” had rendered communication links across shared waterways inoperative. India wishes to “update the Treaty” due to a “material violation” of the pact. India has handed Pakistan a 90-day notice.
It has created legal and political space for both nations to discuss, debate, interpret, and analyse their water diplomacy faultlines. Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (2021): It proposed that the Treaty be renegotiated.
India has taken the cautious approach of not terminating but rather altering the IWT. The “material violation” has been linked to Pakistan’s unilateral decision to seek the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It went around the mandate of the Indus Commissioners. This hearing was boycotted by India.
India asserts. Pakistan has breached the dispute settlement methods stipulated by Treaty Articles 8 and 9. Article 8 defines the functions and responsibilities of the Permanent Indus Commission, which serves as a regular line of communication regarding Treaty implementation issues. Article 9: for resolving any disagreements or disputes that may arise between the two countries.
Treaty Article 9: It provides a graded approach to dealing with any issue connected to the implementation or interpretation of the IWT. It calls for the appointment of an impartial expert if the Commissioners cannot reach an agreement. If the neutral expert considers the disagreement should be considered as a dispute, the matter might be sent to the Court of Arbitration.
The facts must be reported to the two governments by the Commission. The report must include the following information: Commission points of agreement, the perspectives of each Commissioner on these matters, Mention the points of contention.
Only after obtaining a report will either government be able to resolve the problem bilaterally or through the Court of Arbitration. Article 60 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states that a party may criticise an agreement and notify the other party of its decision to terminate it if the other party violates its essential provisions.
The importance of the “material violation” and proposals to terminate the Treaty should be seen in the perspective of Treaty Article 9. Diplomacy and the use of law to explain and defend government acts are equally vital. The arguments advanced by India and Pakistan must be scrutinised. Concerns about the environment and the economy are also essential in understanding the diplomatic fault lines.
Pakistan has demonstrated a preference for third-party mediation, believing that it may be the best way to resolve the deadlock in the two nations’ ties. Technically negotiated agreements are only partial answers that might cause long-term stress on transboundary rivers and ecosystems.
To debate the sustainable use of water resources, the two nations should employ bilateral dispute resolution methods. Article 7 of the treaty discusses future collaboration — addressing and widening transboundary governance challenges in a comprehensive manner. It might serve as the starting point for any future diplomatic handshake.