You are on page 1of 4




Prepared by: Haroon Ahmed
Class: Prep3
Subject: Geography
Teacher: Sir Imran
The Indus Water Treaty between India
and Pakistan
The Indo-Pakistani dispute over the sharing of the Indus River system has not
been as contentious as one would expect it to have been. The Indus Waters
Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan is cited as one of the few examples
of successful resolution of a major dispute over an international river basin. It is
the largest, contiguous irrigation system in the world, with a command area of
about 20 million hectares and annual irrigation capacity of over 12 million
hectares. The partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 put the headwater of
the basin in India, while Pakistan received the lower part of the basin. A serious
dispute over the river waters occurred in 1948, when India halted water
supplies to some Pakistani canals at the start of the summer irrigation season.
The ensuing negotiations between the two countries did not resolve the
problem. The water flow cut off by India affected 5.5 per cent of Pakistan’s
irrigated area and put tremendous strains on the new country. After nine years
of negotiations, the Indus Waters Treaty was finally signed on September 19,
1960, with the cooperation of the World Bank.

The salient features of the Indus Waters Treaty are:
•Three Eastern rivers namely Ravi, Sutlej and Beas were given to India.
•Three Western rivers, Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were given to Pakistan.
•Pakistan to meet the requirements of its Eastern river canals from the Western
rivers by constructing replacement works.
•Safeguards incorporated in the treaty to ensure unrestricted flow of waters in
the Western rivers.
•Both parties were to regularly exchange flow-data of rivers, canals and
•A permanent Indus Waters Commission was constituted to resolve the disputes
between the parties. The Treaty sets out the procedure for settlement of the
differences and disputes. It also provides for settlement of disputes through the
International Court of Arbitration.
Thus, future prospects persuaded the two countries to agree to a partition of
the Indus Basin waters. Both countries were expected to exploit their respective
water shares with the help of an Indus Basin Development Fund to be
administered by the World Bank.
Wular Barrage Issue
Despite the signing of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, another dispute emerged
in 1985, when Pakistan learnt through a tender notice in the Indian press about
the development of a barrage by the name of Tulbul Navigational Project. The
barrage was to be constructed by India on River Jhelum, below the Wular Lake
located near Sopore, 25 km north of Srinagar, where the river Jhelum flows into
the Lake in the South and flows out of it from the West. For Pakistan the geo-
strategic importance of the site lies in the fact that its possession and control
provides India with the means to intimidate Pakistan. A Dam on that site has the
potential to ruin the entire system of the triple canal project within Pakistan
namely, the upper Jhelum Canal, upper Chenab Canal and the lower Bari Doab
According to the Indian Government, the purpose of the Wular Barrage was to
construct a control structure, with a view to improving the navigation in the
River Jhelum during winters, in order to connect Srinagar with Baramula for
transportation of fruits and timber.
India claimed that 90 percent of the Tulbul project would be beneficial to
Pakistan, as it would regulate the supply to Mangla Dam, which would increase
Pakistan’s capacity of power generation at Mangla, as well as regulate the
irrigation network in the Pakistani Punjab through the triple canal system.10 India
further suggested that Pakistan should bear the greater share of constructing
the Barrage, as it would be more beneficial to Pakistan, and would be especially
effective in reducing the flow of water during the flood season.
Pakistan, on the other hand, argued that India had violated Article I (11) of the
Indus Waters Treaty, which prohibits both parties from undertaking any ‘man-
made obstruction’ that may cause ‘change in the volume É of the daily flow of
waters’. Further that Article III (4) specifically barred India, from ‘storing any
water of, or construct any storage works on, the Western Rivers’.
According to sub-paragraph 8(h) of the Indus Waters Treaty, India is entitled to
construct an ‘incidental storage work’ on Western rivers on its side:
•only after the design has been scrutinised and approved by Pakistan; and
•Its storage capacity should not exceed 10,000 acres feet of water.
Whereas the Wular Barrage’s capacity is 300,000 acres feet, which is thirty
times more than the permitted capacity. Regarding the building of a hydro
electric plant, according to the Treaty, India is only allowed to construct a small
run-off water plant with a maximum discharge of 300 cusecs through the
turbines which are insufficient to generate 960 Megawatts of electricity as
planned by India.
Bilateral Negotiations
Pakistan referred the Wular Barrage case to the Indus Waters Commission in
1986, which, in 1987, recorded its failure to resolve it. When India suspended
the construction work, Pakistan did not take the case in the International
Arbitral Court. To date, eight rounds of talks have been held. In 1989, Pakistan
agreed to build a barrage conditional to Pakistani inspection, which India
The two sides almost reached an agreement in October 1991, whereby India
would keep 6.2 meters of the barrage ungated with a crest level of 1574.90m
(5167 ft), and would forego the storage capacity of 300,000 acre feet. In return,
the water level in the Barrage would be allowed to attain the full operational
level of 5177.90 ft. However, in February 1992, Pakistan added another
condition that India should not construct the Kishenganga (390 MW)
hydropower-generating unit. India refused to accept this condition. According to
Pakistan, the Kishenganga project on River Neelam affected its own Neelam-
Jhelum power-generating project, located in its Punjab province. The issue of
Wular Barrage was one of the disputes on the agenda highlighted for the Indo-
Pak talks, both at the Lahore meeting in February 1999, and at the Agra Summit
of July 2001.
Implications for Pakistan
The control of the River Jhelum by India through a storage work would mean:
•A serious threat to Pakistan should India decide to withhold the water over an
extended period, especially during the dry season. It would also multiply and
magnify the risks of floods and droughts in Pakistan. The Mangla Dam on River
Jhelum, which is a source of irrigation and electricity for Punjab, would be
adversely affected.
•Provide India a strategic edge, during a military confrontation, enabling it to
control the mobility and retreat of Pakistani troops and enhancing the
maneuverability of Indian troops. Closing the Barrage gates would render the
Pakistani canal system dry and easy to cross. During the 1965 war, the Indian
Army failed to cross the BRB Link Canal, due to its full swing flow. India is
already in control of the Chenab River through Salal Dam constructed in 1976.
Many Pakistanis criticise the conceding of the Salal Dam to India.