Cross the boulders in the Indus Waters Treaty

Cross the boulders in the Indus Waters Treaty


The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), facilitated by the World Bank, has rekindled tensions between India and Pakistan, spotlighting the principle of fair resource distribution over potential harm. This treaty allots distinct water usage rights to both nations, emphasizing their individual river domains. However, as India’s hydel projects come into play, concerns over treaty violations and downstream repercussions have surfaced, giving rise to the need for revisiting the accord in light of contemporary challenges.


GS – 02 (India and its Neighborhood) (Groupings & Agreements Involving India and Affecting India’s Interests)


  • Kishanganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Projects
  • Tributaries
  • Article IX of the IWT
  • Indus and its tributaries.

Mains Question:

  • Examine the challenges arising from India and Pakistan’s differing interpretations of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) concerning hydel projects. How can the concerns of both nations be addressed to ensure equitable water utilization and mitigate potential harm, while upholding the principles of the IWT? (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Divergent Perspectives on Treaty Interpretation
  • Kishanganga and Ratle issue
  • Complications and Arbitration
  • India’s Stand and PCA’s Observations
  • Fostering Cooperation Amid Trust Deficits
  • Renewal and Adaptation of the Treaty

Divergent Perspectives on Treaty Interpretation:

  • The IWT, endorsed by the World Bank, hinges on an equitable resource-sharing framework. Exclusive access to specific rivers is granted to each nation to harness water resources without inflicting harm on the other.
  • This division allocates the eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej) to India and the western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) to Pakistan. Consequently, India can store 3.60 million-acre feet (MAF) of water for various purposes. Amidst this arrangement, tensions arise over India’s hydel projects, including the Kishanganga and Ratle power plants in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kishanganga and Ratle issue:

  • India views these projects as pivotal for regional development and energy needs. Pakistan, on the contrary, raises objections citing treaty violations and potential adverse effects on water supply, invoking Annexure D provisions.
  • Concerns were initially raised in 2006 for the Kishanganga project and in 2012 for the Ratle project. In 2010, the dispute over the Kishanganga project reached the Court of Arbitration (CoA), which ruled the project as a run-of-river dam and permitted India’s water diversion. However, Pakistan maintained reservations on three unresolved issues.

Complications and Arbitration:

  • Despite the CoA’s judgment, only one of the four issues was resolved through talks. Unresolved matters led Pakistan to accuse India of treaty breaches and bring the issue to the World Bank in 2016.
  • India requested a neutral expert for arbitration. While the World Bank suspended Kishanganga and Ratle works for resolution attempts, the Kishanganga project continued, triggering tensions.
  • In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the project, fueling tensions along the border. The World Bank then appointed Michel Lino as the neutral expert and Professor Sean Murphy as the CoA Chairman.

India’s Stand and PCA’s Observations:

  • In 2023, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), chaired by Prof. Murphy, confirmed its jurisdiction over Pakistan’s disputes with India.
  • India abstained from participating in the proceedings, highlighting its non-recognition of parallel and unauthorized proceedings.
  • Although India engages with the neutral expert, it refuses to be coerced into accepting proceedings outside the treaty’s framework.

Fostering Cooperation Amid Trust Deficit:

  • To address the escalating situation, fostering cooperation between India and Pakistan becomes pivotal. Incorporating “equitable and reasonable utilization” and the “no harm rule” within the IWT requires rebuilding trust.
  • The involvement of local stakeholders and a collaborative group of experts could offer nuanced solutions to shared water challenges. Article VII of the IWT provides for cooperation arrangements, offering a potential path towards harmonious resource management.

Renewal and Adaptation of the Treaty:

  • Given the IWT’s 60-year existence, adapting it to contemporary dynamics is prudent. However, modifications require bilateral consent and enhanced mutual confidence.
  • Recognizing the mutual interest in optimal river system development is crucial for successful treaty implementation.

Way Forward:

  • Revisiting the IWT in light of current challenges demands collective efforts. India and Pakistan must bridge the trust deficit, engaging stakeholders and experts to address shared water concerns.
  • By exploring cooperative arrangements and adapting the treaty to present realities, both nations can ensure equitable water distribution and safeguard their interests within a harmonious framework.


As the Indus Waters Treaty assumes renewed importance, India and Pakistan stand at crossroads. Balancing their interests while adhering to the treaty’s principles necessitates collaborative approaches. By recognizing their common ground and embracing cooperative measures, the nations can navigate the complexities of shared water management and pave the way for a more secure and prosperous future.