Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Writ in Water

Writ in Water

Author: Parul Chandra
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 23, 2002

The Indus Waters Treaty, signed in 1960 between Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan, saw the apportioning of waters of the Indus basin rivers between India and Pakistan.

It should be abrogated and now is the time to do so, says Professor K Warikoo, chairperson of the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. In an interview with Parul Chandra, Warikoo says the treaty has only worked to the detriment of Jammu and Kashmir:

Q.: Could you trace the genesis of the Indus Waters Treaty, including the role played by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now the World Bank) which brokered it?
A.: Pakistan sought to use the Indus waters dispute as a political tool at the United Nations, since Pakistan's policy was to avoid any direct bilateral settlement, and to seek third-party adjudication instead. So when David E Lilienthal, a former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the US Atomic Energy Commission, visited India and Pakistan in February 1951, the bank offered to work out a solution to the Indus waters issue, based on his proposals.

This was followed by a meeting of the bank president with the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers. Then, in February 1954, the bank proposed the division of the rivers in the Indus basin - the eastern rivers, Beas, Sutlej and Ravi for India and the western rivers, Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, for Pakistan. The negotiations continued for six years with Pakistan vacillating and dragging its feet and insisting on a financial investment of $1.12 billion.

On March 1, 1960, the bank announced the financial assistance Pakistan was demanding and the treaty was signed in Karachi on September 19 the same year.

Nehru had sought to buy peace but soon after his Karachi visit, he is reported to have admitted privately, ''I had hoped that this agreement would open the way to settlement on other problems, but we are where we were.''

Q.: Was the apportioning of river waters under the treaty fair?
A.: No, the treaty failed to work out an equitable distribution of waters as it did not take into account various factors like the size of the population dependent on the river waters, length of the rivers, drainage areas, cultivable area and the need to avoid unnecessary wastage.

The Indian leadership, both political and bureaucratic, should have played the game well but it proved to be naive against a Pakistani leadership which was mature, belligerent and consistent.

The J&K government faltered in not having done its homework on studying and quantifying the state's existing and future requirements for irrigation, power and other uses which should have been pressed while the treaty was being negotiated.

Q.: The treaty, it has often been said, benefits Pakistan rather than India. Would you agree?
A.: Yes, Pakistan not only succeeded in extracting huge financial assistance from the World Bank, US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Germany, but even the division of water was disproportionately in favour of Pakistan. It was given 75 to 80 per cent of the total flow in the Indus basin through the unrestricted use of the western rivers. India, on the other hand, was given use of only 20 to 25 per cent of the water through the eastern rivers.

Q.: J&K has often complained that power projects in the state have suffered as a result of the treaty. Your comments.
A.: Despite an untapped hydro-electric potential of 15,000 megawatt, the state has been suffering from acute power shortage because of the unfair restrictions the treaty puts on the use of its rivers, the Jhelum, Chenab and Indus. Since the treaty does not allow construction of storage dams to ensure the requisite flow during the lean winter months, the hydel projects generate much less than their installed capacity.

The Uri power project generates much less than its installed capacity, the 400 feet high Salal project has silt up to nearly three-fourths of its height which needs to be flushed out urgently, and construction of the Baglihar project on the Chenab is jeopardised.

Work on the Tulbal navigation project was halted in 1987 after Pakistan raised objections, even though the project would not have reduced or changed the flow of water to Pakistan.

Q.: Should the treaty be abrogated. Does India stand to gain by doing so?
A.: The four-decade-old treaty has failed to achieve the desired objective of buying peace. It has only added to the economic woes of the people of J&K by depriving them of the legitimate right to fully use the waters of the Jhelum, Chenab and Indus.

It is not based on just and equitable distribution of the quantum of waters and actual requirements of the affected population and areas. Besides, has Pakistan treated other accords like Tashkent, Simla and Lahore as sacrosanct? This is the most opportune time for India to abrogate the treaty as an effective diplomatic option to respond to Pakistan't proxy war. Such a move would also be seen as a positive signal by the people of J&K.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements