Faced with Pakistani intransigence on Indus Waters Treaty, India issues a notice of modification to the treaty
India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 after many years of negotiations
India has issued a notice to Pakistan for modification of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) of September 1960 - the mechanism under which the use of cross-border rivers by the two countries is governed.
According to sources, the step has been prompted by Pakistani "intransigence" and "actions that have adversely impinged on the provisions of the treaty and their implementation". In this context, the sources cited Pakistan's persistent objections to the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
The 'Notice for Modification' was conveyed on January 25, 2023 through respective Commissioners for Indus Waters as per Article XII (3) of IWT.
Explaining the move, the sources referred to a request from Pakistan in 2015 for appointment of a Neutral Expert to examine its technical objections to India’s Kishenganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs). In 2016, however, Pakistan unilaterally retracted this request and proposed that a Court of Arbitration adjudicate on its objections.
"This unilateral action by Pakistan is in contravention of the graded mechanism of dispute settlement envisaged by Article IX of IWT. Accordingly, India made a separate request for the matter to be referred to a Neutral Expert," one of the sources said.
The initiation of two simultaneous processes on the same questions and the potential of their inconsistent or contradictory outcomes creates an unprecedented and legally untenable situation, which risks endangering IWT itself, the sources pointed out.
The World Bank acknowledged this itself in 2016, and took a decision to “pause” the initiation of two parallel processes and request India and Pakistan to seek an amicable way out, sources explained.
It is learnt that despite repeated efforts by India to find a mutually agreeable way forward, Pakistan refused to discuss the issue during the five meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission from 2017 to 2022.
At Pakistan’s continuing insistence, the World Bank has recently initiated actions on both the Neutral Expert and Court of Arbitration processes. Such parallel consideration of the same issues is not covered under any provision of IWT, according to sources.
Faced with such violation of IWT provisions, India has been compelled to issue notice of modification, the sources added.
The objective of the notice for modification is to provide Pakistan an opportunity to enter into intergovernmental negotiations within 90 days to rectify material breach of the IWT. This process would also update the IWT to incorporate the lessons learned over the last 62 years, they added.
India has always been a steadfast supporter and a responsible partner in implementing IWT in letter and spirit, the sources said, adding that Pakistan's actions have, however, forced India to issue an appropriate notice for modification of IWT.
India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 after many years of negotiations, with the World Bank being a signatory of the pact.
The IWT gives control over the waters of the three "eastern rivers" -- the Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej -- to India, while control over the waters of the three "western rivers" -- the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum -- is with Pakistan.