This Article is From Sep 26, 2016

Indus Waters Treaty: Limited Options For India To Turn Off The Tap

Experts say India may have only limited options as it rethinks the Indus Waters Treaty.


  • If India cuts off Indus supply, Pakistan could act against terrorists
  • Indus treaty violation would invite international condemnation for India
  • China could shut Brahmaputra, if India acted against its ally Pakistan
New Delhi: Voices within India demanding action against Pakistan, after terrorists attacked an army base in Uri and killed 18 soldiers last week, are growing louder. One suggestion making the rounds is India turn off the Indus river tap that waters much of Pakistan. It is suggested that doing so could compel Pakistan to crackdown on non-state and state actors acting against India.

"Eventually any cooperative arrangement requires goodwill and mutual trust on both sides," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said last week.

Experts NDTV spoke to remain divided over the benefits of reneging on an international water sharing agreement which has withstood two full scale wars and frosty relations between the two countries.

Speaking to NDTV, former union minister Yashwant Sinha said that time had come for India to reconsider the Treaty.

"India has scrupulously observed every bit of the treaty. But you observe treaty provisions with friendly states and not enemy states. India should take two steps - first abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty and second withdraw Most Favored Nation status to Pakistan," he said.

But if India wants to turn the heat on Pakistan, unilaterally withdrawing from the Treaty is a move fraught with risk.

"The Treaty is an international agreement, which means India alone cannot withdraw from it. It means we will be violating a legally enforceable treaty," said strategic affairs expert G Parthasarthy. He warned that not only would such a move invite international condemnation, but it would also earn the ire of one particular country - China.

The Indus originates in China, and unlike India and Pakistan, it has not signed any international water sharing agreement. Should China decide to divert the Indus, India could lose as much as 36% of river water.

In the east, the Brahmaputra starts as the Yarlung Zangbo in China and then flows down into the Bay of Bengal. Its waters sustain the livelihoods of millions in India and Bangladesh.

According to Tempa Zamlha of the Tibet Policy Institute, India must weigh its next step very carefully. China is already building 11 mega dams on the Brahmaputra and it is in a position to hurt India's interests.

The Indus Waters Treaty or IWT was signed between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan's president General Ayub Khan in 1960, after World Bank brokered negotiations that lasted almost a decade.

Under the agreement, of the six rivers that flow westward in the sub-continent India has full rights over three- Sutlej, Beas and Ravi - while Pakistan receives the waters of the other three -Jhelum, Chenab and Indus - almost unrestricted.