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Indus River System Indus Water Treaty International Law Essay

Water, the Hub of Life. Water is its mater and matrix, mother and medium. Water is the most extraordinary substance! Practically all its properties are anomolous, which enabled life to use it as building

material for its machinery.

- Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1972)

1. The north-western parts of the India and Pakistan is extensively dominated by the Indus River and its system of upper tributaries (collectively referred to as Indus River System). The River Indus emerges near Lake Manasarovar at Mt. Kailash, the Indus river along with the Brahmaputra, Sutlej , and Karnali rivers are supplied by Tibetan glacial waters to become a mighty river with further feeds from other glacial catchment areas in Karakoram and Zanskar ranges. The Indus then traverses a distance of 2000 [1] miles through Tibet, India, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), and Pakistan before draining into the Arabian Sea south of Karachi. The River is also know by various names as Sengge or Lion River by Tibetans Father of Rivers or Abbaseen bt Afghans or and Sweet River or Mitho Dariyo by the people of Sindh. Flowing southwards it is enriched by the waters of several tributaries, the most important and discussed in this article are Beas , Sutlej , Ravi , Chenab and Jhelum rivers. However the western [2] tributaries of the Indus that is Jhelum, Chenab and Indus are not discussed in this chapter.

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Figure 1: Indus river and its tributaries with in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)

2. The major tributaries or rivers of Indus River System are as mentioned in the following paragraphs:-

Figure 2: Major tributaries and dams of the Indus river


(a) River Chenab [3] : This 675 mile (1086 km) long river originates in the Kulu and Kangra districts of Himachal Pradesh and is fed by the tributaries Chandra and Bagha as it enters J&K near Kishtwar. After cutting across the Pir Panjal range, it enters the Sialkot district in Pakistan that built the Marala barrage across the river in 1968 with a maximum discharge of 1.1 million cusecs.

(b) River Jhelum & Kishenganga [4] (Neelum): The Kishenganga river rises in the mountain complex west of Dras and south of Deosai plateau and is fed by a number of tiny tributaries and merges with Jhelum near Muzaffarabad in PoK. The Jhelum itself originates in the foothills of Pir Panjal near Verinag and flows through the four major cities of Anantnag, Srinagar , Sopore and Baramulla. Some important tributaries % of the Jhelum are Lidar, Sind and Vishav.

(c) Ravi [5] : This 475 mile (764 km) long river rises in Himachal Pradesh and runs a course of 102 miles (164 km) before joining Chenab in Pakistan after flowing past Lahore . The Thien Dam (Ranjit Sagar Dam)% is located on this river at the tri-section of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and J&K States and feeds the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC)% which irrigates Northwestern Punjab.

(d) Beas [6] : This 290 mile (467 km) long river originates near Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh and flows through Kulu Valley and the Siwalik Range .


The Pandoh Dam is situated on this and diverts water to Sutlej through the Beas-Sutlej link.

(e) Sutlej [7] : The longest of the five tributaries, the Sutlej originates near Mt. Kailash along with the Indus and runs a course of 964 miles (1550 km) through the Panjal and Siwalik mountain ranges and enters Pakistan through the plains of Indian Punjab. The Husseiniwala Headworks at Ferozepore is located downstream at the merger between of Beas and Sutlej , the closure of which on May 1, 1948 triggered the water crisis that prompted the IWT. These headworks supplied water to the then Princely State of Bikaner through a left- bank canal called Bikaner Canal and the state of Bahawalpur from the right- bank canal called Depalpur Canal .


"India and Pakistan were on the verge of war over Kashmir. There seemed to be no possibility of negotiating this issue until tensions abated. One way to reduce hostility . . . would be to concentrate on other important issues where cooperation was possible. Progress in these areas would promote a sense of community between the two nations which might, in time, lead to a Kashmir settlement. Accordingly, I proposed that India and Pakistan work out a program jointly to develop and jointly to operate the Indus Basin river system, upon which both nations were dependent for irrigation water. With new dams and irrigation canals, the Indus and its tributaries could be made to yield the additional water each country needed for increased food production. In the article I had suggested that the World Bank might use its good offices to bring the parties to agreement, and help in the financing of an Indus Development program.


9. The Indus Water dispute between two nations dates back before partition. The problem became international only after partition, and the attended increased hostility and lack of influence authority only exacerbated the issue. On one hand Pakistan, which being a heavily dependent of Irrigation project [8] now found the it's water resources emerging form a different country.


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10. The dependence of irrigation on Indus River basin dates back to centuries and during the period closer to partition period between India and Pakistan, the irrigation system was most extensive in the world. The disputes on the rivers of Indus River basin long before of independence between two nation, however sporadic conflict were resolved through locally available means. During British India period similar conflicts could not extrapolate due to common or single ruling authority, that is British India. The dispute got internationalised only after 1947 between East Punjab (in India) and West Punjab (in Pakistan),and was aggravated by the fact the political boundary between the two countries was drawn right across the Indus River . The division of the water sources was not given a due consideration in the partition process. This fact was evident by the fact that the "the observation raised by the authorities of East and West Punjab was yet to be finalised when partition process got completed "


Conflict Management

11. The first step towards resolution of the differences could be witnessed in the year 1941 when Indus commission was established subsequently in 1947 , both the nations agreed to a "Standstill Agreement" [9] . The agreement froze water allocations at two points on the the rivers until 31 march 1948, allowing discharges from the headwork's in India to continue to flow into Pakistan. Post expiry of Standstill agreement "Inter - Dominian conference" [10] held on 03 -04 May 1948 at New Delhi, this aspect assured Pakistan that India will not withdraw water delivery without allowing time for Pakistan to develop alternate source. This adhoc arrangement continued till late 1950's.

12. An important initiative was taken in 1951 by India. The initiative draws similarity to Tennesse Valley Authority(TVA) [11] and the former chairman of TVA Mr David Lilienthal visited India and Pakistan on invitation from then India's Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. On completion of his visit Mr Lilienthal published an article on the views of two nations and necessary recommendations.

13. In 1951, David Lilienthal, former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and a former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, USA visited the India and Pakistan and wrote articles. Having had access to both the Governments at the highest level, Lilientahl mentioned, "I proposed that India and Pakistan work out a program jointly to develop and jointly to operate the Indus Basin river system, upon which both nations


were dependent for irrigation water. With new dams and irrigation canals, the Indus and its tributaries could be made to yield the additional water each country needed for increased food production. In the article I had suggested that the World Bank might use its good offices to bring the parties to agreement, and help in the financing of an Indus Development program."

14. The article was the first step that involved the present day third party that is World bank [12] . The president of the World Bank Mr David Black invited both nations alongwith Mr Lilienthal and suggested certain essential principles [13] , that were:-

(a) The water resources of the Indus basin should be managed cooperatively.

(b) The problems of the basin should be solved on a functional and not on a political plane, without relation to past negotiations and past claims.

15. Based upon proposal made by Mr Lilienthal, then President of the World Bank visited the two countries and proposed a Working Party of Indian, Pakistan and World Bank engineers to tackle the "Technical", rather than the "Political" aspects of water sharing between . The two nation accepted this mediation offer in March 1952 and sent their technical teams to Washington for further discussions. Subsequent meetings took place in Karachi in Nov., 1952 and New Delhi in Jan. 1953.

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Initial Estimate

119 MAF

118 MAF

Initial Indian

29 MAF

90 MAF

Initial Pakistani

15.5 MAF

102.5 MAF

Revised Indian

All of the Eastern rivers + 7% of Western rivers

None of the Eastern rivers plus 93% of the Western rivers

Revised Pakistani

30% of Eastern rivers  and none of the Western rivers

70% of the Eastern rivers + all of the Western rivers

World Bank

Entire flow of the Eastern Rivers

Entire flow of the Western Rivers

Table No 1 : Water Allocation Plans [14] of India and Pakistan

16. However, despite all efforts, the wide gaps in the stands of the two countries could not be bridged, mainly due to the intransigence of the Pakistani side as the revised and final allocations show clearly above. The World Bank felt that an ideal approach to joint development of an integrated plan for Indus Basin as proposed by David Lilienthal was now impossible. In order to resolve the dispute, it finally stepped in with its own "settlement" proposals on Feb. 5, 1954 offering the three Eastern rivers to India and the three Western rivers to Pakistan .

17. India accepted the proposal in toto on Mar. 25, 1954 while Pakistan gave only a "qualified acceptance" on July 28, 1954 . The settlement offered by the World Bank was closer to the Indian position as it repudiated the claims of Pakistan based on "historic usage". An angered Pakistan threatened to withdraw from further negotiations. The World Bank proposal was then transformed from a "settlement" to


a "basis for further negotiations" and the talks eventually continued for the next six years.

18. In the meanwhile, the two countries signed an Interim Agreement on June 21, 1955 . As no conclusive agreement could be reached, the World Bank announced on Apr. 30, 1956 that the negotiation deadline has been indefinitely extended. [9] As is its wont, Pakistan , through its then Prime Minister H.S.Suhrawardy, issued a direct threat of war with India over waters, escalating tensions.

19. Under the World Bank plan, Pakistan was asked to construct barrages and canals to divert the Western river waters to compensate the loss of Eastern rivers on the Pakistani side. During the period needed to do this, called the Transition Period, India was required to maintain the "historic withdrawals" to Pakistan The World Bank then suggested a "financial liability" for India as replacement costs by Pakistan for the loss of the three Eastern rivers. In the 1958 meeting, the replacement works and the financial liability to India were considered. India rejected Pakistan 's proposal, known as the "London Plan", for two large dams on the Jhelum and the Indus and three smaller ones on Ravi and Sutlej and several canals, all in all totalling USD 1.2 Billion.

20. India 's alternate proposal, known as the "Marhu Tunnel Proposal", was unacceptable to Pakistan as leaving too much leverage on water flows in Indian hands. In May, 1959, the Bank's President visited both countries and suggested a way out which involved India paying a fixed amount of £ 62.060 Million to be paid in


ten years in equal installments and the Bank assisting Pakistan with help from donor countries. The international consortium of donors pledged USD 900 Million for Pakistan and the drafting of the IWT began in Aug., 1959.

21. The treaty was signed in Karachi by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Field Marshal Ayub Khan H.P., H.J. and Mr. W.A.B. Illif, President of the World Bank in a five-day summit meet starting Sep. 19, 1960 . However, it was deemed effective from Apr. 1, 1960 . The two governments ratified the same in January 1961 by exchanging documents in Delhi .

22. Indus Basin Development Fundwas established with contributions from Australia , Canada , Germany , New Zealand , the UK and the US along with India 's share of the cost. The Eisenhower Administration contributed roughly half the cost of the Fund, while the World Bank provided US$ 250 Million and the other donor countries together provided a similar amount. The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) of Pakistan was entrusted with the task of completing these tasks. The fund was subsequently extinguished after the completion of the projects as per Article XI of the IWT. The May 4, 1948 accord stood annulled after the signing of IWT. The Indus Basin Project involved construction of two large dams, five barrages, one siphon and seven link canals transfer 14 MAF of water from the Western rivers


23. The IWT consists of a Preamble, twelve articles delineating the rights and obligations of both countries, including mechanisms to deal with disputes, and various Annexure. These are mentioned below:

Articles & Annexure of IWT

Article I Definitions

Article II Provisions Regarding Eastern Rivers

Article III Provisions Regarding Western Rivers

Article IV Provisions Regarding Eastern Rivers and Western Rivers

Article V Financial Provisions

Article VI Exchange of Data

Article VII Future Cooperation

Article VIII Permanent Indus Commission

Article IX Settlement of Differences and Disputes

Article X Emergency Provisions

Article XI General Provisions

Article XII Final Provisions

Annexure A Exchange of Notes between Government of India and Government of Pakistan

Annexure B Agricultural Use by Pakistan from Certain Tributaries of the Ravi

Annexure C Agricultural Use by India from the Western Rivers

Annexure D Generation of Hydroelectric Power by India on the Western Rivers

Annexure E Storage of Waters by India on the Western Rivers


Annexure F Neutral Expert

Annexure G Court of Arbitration

Annexure H Transitional Arrangements

Of the above, Annexure H is no longer valid as the Transition Period, during which Pakistan was required to make alternate arrangements for the loss of waters of the Eastern rivers, has long since expired.

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