Experts say the treaty is ‘unjust’ as then PM Nehru deliberately gave 80% of water share from Indus to Pakistan.
New Delhi: The “unfair” Indus Water treaty was a historical blunder and it is time that India corrects this blunder to ensure it receives a fair share of water from the Indus rivers, by making adequate amendments to the treaty, as “blood and water cannot flow together”, experts and security establishments within India have said.
Through the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed some 62 years back between Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani Military dictator General Ayub Khan, India had kept its share of water from the Indus rivers to just 19.5% of the total water flow, while giving Pakistan nearly 80% water from the Indus rivers.
This decision of the then Prime Minister Nehru being overly generous to Pakistan has been criticised over the years as Pakistan kept exporting terror to India and killing hundreds of innocent Indians over the last three decades and despite this, successive governments carried on with this treaty. But now a demand for abrogation of this treaty has been gathering momentum.
Geostrategic expert Major (Retd) Amit Bansal told The Sunday Guardian that the then Prime Minister Nehru deliberately gave 80% of the water share from the Indus rivers to Pakistan as he had then said that the three Western rivers–Indus, Jhelum and Chenab—flowing through Kashmir should be given to Pakistan, while the Eastern rivers—Beas, Sutlej and Ravi should be kept with India. “This was nothing but a Pakistan obsession of Nehru. This was a historical blunder and India should now work towards correcting this blunder.” Major (Retd) Amit Bansal said.
Bansal further termed the IWT as an “unjust”, “unfair” and inequitable distribution of water. “IWT is an unequal treaty and the circumstances under which the treaty was signed has changed now. Pakistan is exporting terror to India for almost three decades now and India has been the worst victim of Pakistani sponsored terrorism. Despite all of this, the past Indian governments did not do anything to either amend or abrogate the treaty. But this was the past of India, now the abrogation of the IWT cannot be ruled out. Pakistan must realise that if they do not stop exporting terror to India, India has the right to stop the water flow into Pakistan. Blood and water cannot flow together,” Major (Retd) Amit Bansal told this newspaper.
Bansal further explained that the unequal water distribution treaty has caused a perennial problem of water for the states like Punjab, Haryana and Delhi where all these three states depend on the water flow from the Indus basin. “Punjab and Haryana are the food bowls of India and our erstwhile leaders have made such a historical blunder that has deprived our own states of their fair share of water. Punjab and Haryana both need a lot of water for agricultural purposes, but today they are being deprived of it because our previous government was generous to Pakistan. Even Delhi gets water from these rivers, and today see Delhi is facing a water crisis and the reasons are cited above,” Bansal said. Former Indian ambassador to Pakistan and former deputy national security advisor to the Government of India, Satish Chandra, earlier speaking to The Sunday Guardian had said that it is high time India walks out of the Indus Water Treaty.
“Nehru signed the treaty in the hope that it would foster better ties between the two countries. This hope has been belied. Accordingly, we should walk out of the treaty. Though the treaty does not have a specific provision for unilateral abrogation, we can do so under Article 62 of the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties which permits it in the event of a fundamental change of circumstances under which the treaty was concluded. The fundamental change being Pakistan’s reprehensible behaviour, as demonstrated by its export of terror and complete absence of any display of goodwill, friendship and cooperative spirit on the basis of which the treaty is predicated. It may be noted that even in the operation of the treaty, Pakistan has not shown any cooperative spirit or goodwill and has, over the decades, stalled many Indian projects,” Satish Chandra had told this newspaper earlier.
Uttam Kumar Sinha, Head of the Non-Traditional Security Centre, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and author of the book Indus Basin Uninterrupted, told The Sunday Guardian that the IWT does not have an exit clause, but the treaty survived because India wanted to continue with it. “The Treaty has no exit clause, in other words there is no provision for abrogation. It, however, mentions modification of the provisions (Article X) by another duly ratified treaty concluded for that purpose between the two countries. Given the fractious politics it is neigh impossible to achieve renegotiation. Pakistan will never renegotiate having got a favourable deal in 1960. That the Treaty has survived is because India has allowed it to function. India has allowed it to function because there is no strategic advantage in disrupting the treaty.” Sinha told this newspaper.
However, Sinha further added that abrogation of the IWT can take place if India unilaterally decides as Pakistan will never agree to abrogate this treaty. “Abrogation can take place as a unilateral action and under extraordinary circumstances. India will have to define what the extraordinary situation is. There have been several incidents, for example, the Parliament terror attack in 2001, Mumbai attack in 2008, Uri and Pulwama attacks in 2016 and 2019 respectively that could have prompted India to abrogate the treaty. But it did not. Why? Political leaders have been wary of such action. Often hardliners take recourse to the Law of Treaties under the Vienna Convention, 1964 to support their claims for abrogation,” Sinha added.
However, Major (Retd) Bansal said that Pakistan has already violated provisions of the treaty by constructing a dam in Mirpur in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir territory with the assistance of the World Bank. “When Pakistan itself can violate the treaty provisions, then why should India not? And this dam was constructed with the assistance of the World Bank. How could the World Bank fund this project when the same bank says that they would not fund projects in disputed territories?” Bansal asked.
Both India and Pakistan recently held the 118th meeting of the Indus water commission in New Delhi earlier this week. This is the annual meeting of the water commission that is mandated to meet every year in either of the two countries. This time a delegation of officials had crossed over to India to meet in the Indian national capital and deliberate on the provisions of the treaty.
The Indus Water Treaty is a water sharing agreement between India and Pakistan that was signed in 1960 dividing the Indus basin into six rivers. The eastern rivers were kept with India while the Western Rivers were given to Pakistan. The deal was brokered by the World Bank. Of the total 168 million acre-feet of the three allotted rivers, India’s share of water is 33 million acre-feet or nearly 20%. India uses nearly 93-94% of its share under the Indus Waters Treaty. The rest of the unutilised water goes to Pakistan.