Indus Water Commission Talks Held

Indian and Pakistani officials wrapped up a two-day meeting of the Indus Water Commission (IWC). A 10-member Indian delegation took part in the meeting of Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) in Islamabad.

The meeting was to address the conflict between the two countries over the construction of the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric plants on Kishenganga and Chenab rivers respectively.

The two sides also exchanged data on the flow of water from India to Pakistan and discussed the design aspects of Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai and Miyar hydroelectric plants.

The Indus Water treaty requires annual meetings but none took place since May 2015 as India cancelled last year’s meeting in Delhi following the Uri attacks. Though the Indus Treaty is regarded as one of the most successful international pacts, having survived three major wars and numerous twists and turns in a volatile relationship.

However, it has seeded dissatisfaction and conflicts regarding its interpretation and implementation. Further, the future of the treaty looks bleak as water shortage on both sides of the divide will compel the governments to talk tough.

The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) was negotiated over nine years between India and Pakistan and was signed on Sept 19, 1960. It is a unique treaty simply because it is based on sharing rivers between two countries – not their waters.

According to the IWT, three western rivers – Indus, Chenab and Jhelum – are allocated to Pakistan while the three eastern rivers – Sutlej, Beas and Ravi – flow into India. The Permanent Indus Commission, which includes a commissioner from each country, ensures the smooth working of the treaty. Since then, treaty officials of India and Pakistan have met 112 times.

The IWT also permits India to the restricted use of western rivers for domestic, non-consumptive and hydro-electric with minimal storage purposes. While 80% of the waters of the Indus river system benefits Pakistan, only 20% flows into India.

Pakistan regards India’s decision to build two major hydro electric power stations, the 330 megawatt Kishanganga project and the 850 megawatt Ralte plant in Jammu as breaching the Indus protocol. It wants to take the issue before an international court while India wants a neutral observer.

India maintains that run-of –the river dams are allowed by international law. According to the treaty technical objections by either party are referred to neutral experts if the countries cannot resolve it bilaterally. Only disputes that require interpretation of the treaty are handled by a Court of Arbitration.

The World Bank, which helped in the negotiations, is a guarantor of the Indus Water Treaty, signed in 1960 between Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ayub Khan.

Last year, India threatened to suspend the commissioner-level talks following the Uri attacks. This led India to put its focus on the treaty even as it plans to push the projects proposed across Jammu and Kashmir.

These projects are — Pakal Dul (1000 MW), Ratle (850 MW), Kishanganga (330 MW), Miyar (120 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) on the River Chenab. Pakistan is opposed to other two projects proposed by India – Kishenganga and Ratle. Under the policy, India has the right to draw waters from the rivers flowing into Pakistan for hydro power generation.

Pakistan also had serious objections to India’s plans to build these plants apart from raising issues over the proposed projects that are planned for J&K.

Under Article VIII of the Indus Water Treaty, the Indus Water Commission must meet once a year alternately in India and Pakistan.