What is Indus Water Treaty?

Indus Water Treaty is a water distribution treaty between India and Pakistan that was signed in 1960. Here we will learn all about Indus Water Treaty.Let’s learn.

What is Indus Water Treaty

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Indus Waters Treaty, 1960

  • It is a bilateral water distribution treaty between India and Pakistan.
  • It was signed between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani counterpart President Ayub Khan.
  • The treaty was brokered by the World Bank and it was signed in Karachi in 1960.

How Was the Water Distribution?
There are total six rivers flowing in Indus river basin. Three eastern flowing rivers i.e. the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej came under control of India and three western flowing rivers the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan.

The Indus river basin
The Indus river basin
  • In this treaty, India was also allowed to use water of western flowing rivers for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic and industrial purposes.
  • Indus Water Treaty also empowered India to build hydroelectric plants through the run of the river (RoR) projects on the above mentioned Western Rivers. The hydroelectric projects are subject to specific criteria for design and operation is unrestricted.

What is Run of the River (RoR) Projects?
Run of the river projects are the type of hydroelectric power projects where the natural flow of river water and elevation drop of the river is used to generate electricity instead of artificially built dams and other construction.

  • The treaty instructed, the water commissioners from India and Pakistan, to meet twice a year along with a technical visit to ongoing projects sites and critical river head works.
  • The permanent Indus Commission was formed under the treaty and the treaty framed a comprehensive mechanism for the cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers waters under the Permanent Indus Commission.

Indus Water Treaty (IWT) gives permission to India to use only 20 per cent of the total water carried by the Indus river.

Know the Recent Dispute

The recent dispute is triggered regarding the construction of the Kishanganga project on the Neelum river and Ratle run-of-the-river (RoR) Hydropower project on the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir.

Know About Kishanganga Hydroelectric Project

  • The project is under National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC)
  • It is a 330 MW project.
  • The project is on river Kishanganga river or Neelum river(The name of the Kisanganga river in Pakistan) which is a tributary of the Jhelum river.
  • It is located at North Bandipore in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The construction began in 2007.

Know About Ratle Hydroelectric Project

  • The project is under GVK Power and an independent power producer (IPP).
  • It is an 850 MW project.
  • The project is on the Chenab River.
  • It is located in the Kishtwar District of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Construction started in 2013.

What is the Point of View of Pakistan?

  • Pakistan’s objection is involving Neelum-Jhelum project construction which would affect downstream of the Kishanganga project in Pakistani territory. As Indus Water Treaty is giving them the exclusive right to Chenab and Jhelum river.
  • While Pakistan also questioned the legal provision of the construction and operation of these Indian hydroelectric projects.
  • Construction on the dam was temporarily paused by the order of the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (CoA) in October 2011 due to Pakistan’s protest against the Kishanganga project.

While Pakistan had challenged the Kisanganga project citing the provisions of Indus Waters Treaty,1960.The International Court of Arbitration at the Hague ruled in India’s favour in 2013 but also asks India to maintain minimum water flow at the rate of 9 cubic meters/sec in Pakistan territory.

What is the Point of View of India?

  • India is positively focused on these hydroelectric power projects as Indus Water Treaty empowers India to build hydroelectric plants through the run of the river (RoR) projects on the west-flowing rivers Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.
  • The project will ensure that the Bandipora district will get a 13% free power supply including 1% for local area development fund amounting to around Rs 133 crore per year.
  • The Kisanganga project involves the diversion of water flow into the Jhelum river along with the water discharge at Wular lake which is a Ramsar site. Such diversion of water flow will not affect the downstream flow of the Jhelum river. Apart from the hydroelectric project, the Kisanganga project will be beneficial for the Wular lake. The Wular lake is not only a rich bio-diverse Ramsar lake but also it promotes eco-tourism to boost the local economic activities.

Also Read

India said that it would review the treaty and linked it with the cross-border terrorism following the Uri attack in 2016 which killed 19 Indian soldiers. At that time Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “blood and water can not flow simultaneously”

Importance of the Indus Waters treaty for Pakistan

  • Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are the lifelines of Pakistan as the country is entirely dependent on these rivers for all agricultural and industrial works.
  • Pakistan fears the threat of drought and famine as Indus originates from China and Chenab and Jhelum originate from India. These rivers flow into Pakistan through India.

Role of World Bank

  • World Bank arranged a meeting in November 2019 between the Indian and Pakistani delegation through the appointment of a neutral expert. But no positive solution came out.
  • India tried to solve the dispute by several meetings during 2016-17 mediated by World Bank. But the projects are still at a pause.

It should be noted that in Indus Water Treaty the World Bank functions as a broker only. World Bank has a procedural role and there is no provision for the World bank to take an independent decision in this issue.

Recent Developments

Recently India tabled a suggestion for discussion over pending issues of the Indus Water Treaty. India wants this discussion at a virtual platform considering the rising COVID-19 pandemic cases across the country. But Pakistan is pushing for physical discussion at Attari Joint Check Post rejecting the proposal for a video conference. Both the countries are far away from the diplomatic consensus over even a trivial issue on the mode of discussion.


Since the Inception of the Indus Water Treaty in 1960, India and Pakistan are embroiled in prolonged negotiation over several including Salal hydroelectric project, the Tulbul project, Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric plants. This dispute says a lot about poor water management and water scarcity in the Indian sub-continent. Environmental degradation is the primary reason behind conflicts over water resources.

However, an amicable solution under a legal framework would be welcomed. Both the country should come out with a  bi-lateral consensus, going beyond the narrow political agendas for the overall natural, economic and political stability in the region.

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