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Should India stop the flow of Indus river into Pakistan to avenge the Uri attack?
The attack on the army camp at Uri on last Sunday has unified the nation against Pakistan. The whole nation is raising one unanimous voice to avenge the Uri attack. Since, both India and Pakistan are nuclear states, the option of an all out war has been ruled out by defence experts.

Now, the Indian government is mulling over all other non-military options for putting pressure on Pakistan and dissuade it from any further misadventures against India in the future. One of the most popular suggestion that has come is the abrogation of the Indus Water Treaty, which was signed on September 19, 1960 in Karachi by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan's military ruler Field Marshal Ayub Khan. This Treaty had been brokered by the World Bank.

What is the Indus Water Treaty?

The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) involved defining of water sharing for the six rivers of the Indus river basin. The Treaty classified the six rivers of the Indus basin into `eastern' and `western' rivers. Sutlej, Beas and Ravi were classified as eastern rivers while Jhelum, Chenab and Indus were named western rivers. Out of these six rivers, Indus is the largest river. Indus and Sutlej both originate in China while the other four rivers rise from India. All these six rivers enter Pakistan from India.

The IWT gives rights over water of the three eastern rivers to India, while it has to let the waters of the western rivers including Indus flow unrestricted into Pakistan. As per the Treaty, India can use the water from western rivers in a "non-consumptive" manner like for irrigation and hydropower production, but only as specified by the treaty.

For implementation of the IWT, a Permanent Indus Commission was established. Both countries have an Indus Commissioner each who meet regularly every six months to exchange information and data and for settling major disputes over the distribution of waters. In fact, this treaty has stood the test of time and was never revoked even in wake of the Indo-Pak wars of 1965, 1971 and the Kargil War of 1999, although voices have been raised regularly against the treaty from India.

The IWT is clearly a biased Treaty as it gives our enemy state Pakistan, access of water from most of the Indus river system. The Indus Water Treaty reserves just 19.48 per cent of water of the six-river Indus system for India. Undoubtedly, the IWT is the most generous water-sharing treaty in the world, and yet our thankless neighbour stabs us in the back at the first opportunity it gets. Rather on the contrary, Pakistan has been using water as a weapon against India.


How dependent is Pakistan on the water from Indus river?

A lot, it can be easily said. Geographically speaking, Indus is the lifeline of Pakistan. Almost 65 per cent of land area of Pakistan including the entire province of Punjab lies in the Indus river basin. Pakistan has the world's largest canal irrigation system, all thanks to the Indus basin, which waters its 90 per cent irrigated area.

Pakistan's three largest dams and a few smaller ones are located in the region. Hence, the country depends on the water from Indus for irrigation, hydroelectricity and drinking water for millions of the Pakistanis. So, if India can turn the tap off the Indus water from its side, Pakistan can be hit where it would hurt the most. Being upstream, India can stop the flow of the river into Pakistan.

How has Pakistan been using the IWT against India?

In recent years, in spite of having a large share of the water from the Indus system, Pakistan has been using the IWT as a weapon against India. As if the proxy wars of spreading terror in India weren't enough, Pakistan has also been waging "water wars" against India.

Recently, Pakistan decided to approach the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands to protest against two hydropower projects being built in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India. Although India claims that the Kishanganga and Ratle projects are under the ambit of the IWT, Pakistan has a disagreement. This latest deadlock happened after two days of talks between the Indus Commissioners held on July 14-15 this year. After failure of talks, Pakistan's Water and Power Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif tweeted that his government would go to the Hague court.

The Indus Water Treaty requires India to provide prior notification including design information to Pakistan about any new upcoming hydropower project in its area. And in order to keep the Kashmir issue simmering, Pakistan raises objections against every Indian project. These hindrances drive up the costs of projects leading to financial losses to our country.

In conclusion

In 2011, a report prepared by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee called the IWT "the world's most successful water treaty" for having withstood conflicts and wars. But, the fact is that the success of the Treaty can only be attributed to India's patience with Pakistan. It would not be out of place to mention that according to international law, India has every right to withdraw from the treaty if circumstances change drastically.

On Thursday, Vikas Swarup, the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs while indicating that India might not continue with the IWT said, "There are difference over the treaty. For any such treaty to work, it is important that there must be mutual trust and cooperation. It can't be a one sided affair."

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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