The Indus Water Treaty is a water-sharing agreement signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, which governs the sharing of the water from the Indus River and its tributaries. The treaty was brokered by the World Bank and is considered to be one of the most successful water-sharing agreements in the world. The treaty is based on the principles of sharing and cooperation, and it is aimed at promoting regional stability and economic development in both India and Pakistan. It has been in operation for over six decades, and despite the occasional tensions between the two countries, the treaty has been adhered to by both sides. The Indus Water Treaty is a legally binding agreement, and it cannot be violated by either India or Pakistan. Any violation of the treaty would be a breach of international law, and it could potentially lead to serious consequences.
India has expressed reservations about the use of the Court of Arbitration to settle disputes related to the Indus Water Treaty. One of the primary reasons for this opposition is the concern that the Court of Arbitration process could lead to a loss of control over the shared water resources of the Indus River. India has argued that the Indus Water Treaty provides for a mechanism of bilateral talks and a Permanent Indus Commission to resolve disputes between the two countries. India believes that the treaty’s dispute resolution mechanism, which is based on mutual consultation and negotiation, is adequate to address any issues that may arise between the two countries. Another concern that India has expressed is related to the Court of Arbitration’s lack of expertise in the complexities of the Indus River water-sharing arrangement. India has argued that the Court of Arbitration is ill-equipped to fully understand the technical and historical aspects of the Indus Water Treaty.
Additionally, India has expressed concern that the Court of Arbitration process could be politicized, leading to a situation where the court’s decision may be influenced by external political factors. Overall, India’s opposition to the use of the Court of Arbitration to settle disputes related to the Indus Water Treaty is primarily based on its belief that the treaty’s existing dispute resolution mechanisms are sufficient and that the Court of Arbitration process could lead to a loss of control over the shared water resources of the Indus River.
The Indus Water Treaty outlines specific provisions for the sharing of the water from the Indus River and its tributaries. One of the key provisions of the treaty is that India is required to inform Pakistan of any new hydroelectric project it plans to undertake, at least six months in advance.
The dispute resolution mechanism of Treaty remained “paused” for more than five years, which denied Pakistan access to redressal mechanisms under the Treaty. This provision is aimed at promoting transparency and cooperation between the two countries in the development of hydroelectric projects on the Indus River. It allows Pakistan to assess the potential impacts of the new project on its water resources and to raise any concerns or objections it may have before the project is initiated.
In 2016, Pakistan initiated the process of Request for Arbitration under Article IX (5) of the Indus Water Treaty, which allows either India or Pakistan to seek the resolution of a dispute through the appointment of a neutral expert or a court of arbitration. Pakistan made this request in response to India’s construction of the Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects on the western rivers of the Indus River system. Pakistan argued that the construction of these projects by India violates the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty, specifically the requirement for India to inform Pakistan of any new hydroelectric projects it plans to undertake. Pakistan claimed that the construction of these projects would have a significant impact on its water resources and would harm its agricultural and power generation capabilities. India, on the other hand, argued that the Kishanganga and Ratle projects were in compliance with the treaty’s provisions and that they would not affect the flow of water to Pakistan.
The request for arbitration was transmitted to India by the World Bank, which had a role in the resolution of disputes under the treaty. However, the process of arbitration was suspended in November 2016, after both countries agreed to resolve the dispute through bilateral talks. Since then, both India and Pakistan have been engaging in discussions to resolve their differences over the Indus Water Treaty.
Ever since (May 2014) with Modi elected as PM of India problems started raising their ugly head mainly due to belligerent attitude of Modi. On 27 September 2016, PM Modi uttered that blood and water cannot flow together hinting something sinister in his mind. Recently, India sent a notice to Pakistan suggesting therein to modify the accord and asked for reply within next 90 days. The fact is that India cannot unilaterally annul the IWT under the pretext of not receiving the reply or receiving belated reply of notice sent to Pakistan.
After existing ‘dispute resolution mechanism’ could not address Pakistan’s observations with regard to India’s dams’ (Kashanganga on Jhelum River and Ratle on Chenab River) designs, Pakistan approached WB from there matter has been referred to ‘Arbitration Court’. Taking the impasse to World Bank Appointed Arbitration Court is no a breach of agreement. Apparently India is likely to lose the case there. Pakistan has strong argument that is entitled to take its grievances under the treaty to the relevant forum. Both countries invoked two simultaneous forums for dispute resolution, instead of a ‘graded process’ on the same question. India thinks this could lead to a potential contradictory outcome; therefore, it constitutes a material breach and hence there is a need to ‘modify’ the treaty. But again the institution which brokered the accord has referred the matter to Arbitration Court. Hence India’s observations are legally invalid as there is a sinister move on part of India as it is trying to find lame excuses to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement. The breach of Indus Water treaty will also be the violation of ‘Vienna Convention’ on the Law of Treaties (1969) that binds states to follow the procedure agreed by them for withdrawal or termination.
The writer is an Islamabad based expert of strategic affairs.