Indus Water Treaty Signed by India & Pakistan - [September 19, 1960] This Day in History

19 September 1960

India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty

What happened?

On 19 September 1960, India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty in Karachi. This treaty is a water-distribution treaty between the two countries on sharing the waters of the Indus River and its tributaries. The deal was brokered by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (which later became the World Bank). This is an important event in post-independent India. The Treaty is also in the news these days with relations between India and Pakistan spiraling downward. Hence, this is important from the UPSC point of view.

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Indus Water Treaty UPSC

  • The rivers of the Indus Basin originate in Tibet and the Himalayas in Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
  • They flow through the states of Punjab, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Sindh in Pakistan.
  • During the partition of the India conflicts arose as to how to share the bountiful waters of the Indus River basin.
  • The source of all the rivers lay in India while Pakistan was dependent on these waters as its chief source of water for irrigation.
  • Initially, after the partition, the 1948 Inter-Dominion Accord governed rules for the sharing of waters.
  • As per this accord, India was to release sufficient quantities of water to Pakistan in return for an annual payment.
  • But this was a temporary arrangement and there were negotiations for a more lasting solution to the problem.
  • Pakistan was wary of India’s geographical dominance in this aspect as the source of all the rivers lay within India. Alarmed at the prospect of drought and other disasters, Pakistan hoped to take the matter to the International Court of Justice. India, however, contended that the matter was a bilateral issue and should be resolved accordingly.
  • Eventually, the World Bank was able to broker an agreement that came to be known as the Indus Waters Treaty. This was signed by the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (born on November 14, 1889) and the Pakistani President Ayub Khan.
  • This treaty has withstood wars and other conflicts between India and Pakistan.
  • Pakistan has objected to India’s construction of the Kishenganga (2007) and Ratle (2013) hydroelectric plants on rivers Kishenganga (starting in Kashmir and merging into the Jhelum) and Chenab respectively stating India violated the Indus Waters Treaty. But the World Bank did not find India to be in any kind of violation.

Indus Water Treaty Summary

  • As per this treaty, the eastern rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi are controlled by India; and the western rivers Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are governed by Pakistan. That means India has unrestricted usage rights over the eastern rivers. And, India should allow unrestricted flow of the western rivers into Pakistan.
  • India can use 20% of the water of the Indus for irrigation, transport and power generation since it originates in India. India can use the waters of the Chenab and Jhelum for consumption purposes but cannot build any storage or irrigation systems on the western rivers aside specific cases.
  • When the treaty was signed, India was to supply water to Pakistan from the eastern rivers for ten years until Pakistan built a canal system for using the waters of the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.
  • Towards this canal system, India contributed £62,060,000 in ten installments.
  • A Permanent Indus Commission was also set up to manage the treaty and to resolve any issues. An arbitration mechanism was set up to solve disputes amicably.
  • After the Uri attacks in 2016, India has reviewed the treaty.
  • In the wake of the Pulwama attacks in 2019, the Indian government stated that all water flowing into Pakistan at present, in the three eastern rivers, will be diverted to Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan for different uses.
Also on this day 

2000: Karnam Malleswari became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal when she won bronze for weightlifting at the Sydney Olympics.

Daily News

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

Also read:

Inter-State Water Disputes In India Infographic
Indus Water Treaty in brief
India – Pakistan Relations

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