February 1, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss the recent flashpoint between India and Pakistan on the Indus Water Treaty. We also look at the suspected food poisoning incident in Kerala, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
The Indus Water Treaty saga: Where do India and Pakistan stand?
India and Pakistan have a rocky history. Sometimes neighbours don’t exactly get along. Wars have been fought, and skirmishes have happened along the borders. Diplomatic relations have had their ups and downs. The two countries are in entirely different places now. India is looking to stave off any effects of a possible global recession and continue its robust growth. On the other hand, Pakistan is going through a historic economic crisis.
The latest potential flashpoint is the decades-old Indus Water Treaty agreement. The long-standing dispute over hydroelectric projects could fester and grow in the coming months. India wants to modify the treaty, and Pakistan is refusing to budge. Who’s in the right here?
During the partition in 1947, the two states were formed, and border lines were drawn on what was then called the “Indus watershed”. This meant India had control of upstream barrages that regulated water flow into Pakistan. The boundary between the two countries cuts across the river’s tributaries. Hence, there was an upstream-downstream power structure.
Let’s lay out the geographical map here. The Indus river system is fed by glaciers and tributaries from the mountains of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush. Its floodplains, where the majority of Pakistan’s population lives, are one of the largest agricultural regions in Asia. The river system is split between India and Pakistan. Some sections are in Tibet and eastern Afghanistan.
Diplomatic tensions arose when there were fears of a water shortage due to the construction of dams. Both countries have blamed each other for poor water management, floods, and disruptions in the water supply. In 1960, the Indus Water Treaty was signed between the two countries after years of negotiations. The World Bank helped broker the agreement. Former US President Dwight Eisenhower called “it a bright spot in a very depressing world picture that we see so often.”
The treaty states the western rivers, Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab, were allocated to Pakistan and the eastern ones, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej, to India. The Permanent Indus Commission has a commissioner from each country that has a mechanism for cooperation on the use of the rivers. Any dispute will be handled by a seven-member tribunal called the “Court of Arbitration.”
There have been disagreements over the construction of the Kishenganga and the Ratle hydropower plants. They’re located in India on the tributaries of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, respectively. The dispute concerns whether the design goes against the treaty. In 2016, Pakistan asked the World Bank to set up a Court of Arbitration to address its concerns.
In 2019, the Indian government said it planned to restrict the water flow to Pakistan from its share of rivers. The news came after an attack by a Pakistan-based group in Kashmir that killed 42 paramilitary police. Now, India has issued a notice to Pakistan wanting a modification of the treaty. Is India in the right, or do Pakistan’s concerns have merit?
VIEW: India has stayed the course
From India’s point of view, it has always been a responsible partner in implementing the treaty, and Pakistan’s actions encroached upon the treaty’s provisions. It has forced India’s hand to issue a fair and appropriate notification for the treaty’s modification. The notice gives Pakistan 90 days to consider entering intergovernmental discussions to rectify the breach.
Per Article XII (3) of the treaty, its provisions can be modified from time to time by the two governments. Pakistan’s objections concern the two hydropower plants. In 2015, it asked a neutral expert to examine the technical concerns. Next year, it retracted the request and wanted a Court of Arbitration to adjudicate. India wanted a neutral expert and argued Pakistan’s arbitration request violated the treaty’s dispute-resolution mechanism.
India is on sound technical and legal grounds in wanting the modification. Pakistan didn’t use the treaty to resolve any differences in the designs. Per India, they are per the treaty. India’s assertion has been that Pakistan has objected to every project with a mission to render them unworkable. There has also been some criticism of the World Bank’s role. It hasn’t functioned as a facilitator, and its role hasn’t been in good faith.
COUNTERVIEW: Pakistan has valid points
The Attorney General for Pakistan’s (AGP) office said the country’s concerns were the construction of the 330MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project on the Jhelum River and plans for the Ratle Hydroelectric Project on River Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad raised its concerns in the Permanent Indus Commission beginning in 2006. Pakistan’s hand was forced after it felt India ignored its repeated requests to address the concerns.
While India is unhappy with two parallel processes, Pakistan has insisted the treaty provides two forums for dispute settlements. The Court of Arbitration addresses the legal and systematic issues, and the neutral expert addresses the technical issues. Before scrapping Kashmir’s special status, India allegedly showed little urgency on the Indus basin projects. India’s moves have been as blatantly political.
Concerning the projects specifically, Pakistan has argued that the Kishanganga project, inaugurated in 2018, includes a dam on the tributary of the Jhelum. Pakistan has insisted the dam changes the river’s course and will deplete the water levels. A few years ago, Pakistani officials demanded the freeboard height of the projects on the Chenab basin be reduced from 7 to 2 feet. They also wanted the seal way gates to be installed with an additional 40 metres to align it with sea level. India ignored both requests.
- Water conflict and cooperation between India and Pakistan – Climate Diplomacy
- Fact Sheet: The Indus Waters Treaty 1960 and the Role of the World Bank – World bank
- India reiterates plan to stop sharing water with Pakistan – AlJazeera
- Analysis of Indus Water Treaty – Times of India
- ‘Intransigence’: India notifies Pakistan of plans to amend Indus Waters Treaty – Hindustan Times
- Indus Waters Treaty: Opening the water front – Observer Research Foundation
- Arbitration court holds first IWT hearing – The Express Tribune
- Sixty Years of the Indus Waters Treaty and How It Survived Many a Fraught Moment – The Wire
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) India is right to ask for a modification of the Indus Water Treaty.
b) India made the wrong decision to ask for a modification of the Indus Water Treaty.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
How India lost access to 26 patrolling points along China border
For the Left:
How Lord Hanuman offers lessons in diplomacy to both India and the world
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Advanced warning systems to prevent disasters (Himachal Pradesh) – The state government’s officers have been instructed by Chief Minister Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu to create an early warning system to lessen the impact of catastrophes and enhance the Disaster Management Response Capacity System. The CM has also ordered that places more vulnerable to earthquakes be studied and that glaciers be accurately mapped using modern, cutting-edge equipment.
Why it matters: A thorough study on landslides and sinking zones will be prepared thanks in large part to the CM’s decision, which was made in light of the recent occurrence involving the sinking of Joshimath. In addition to institutional and personal readiness, the CM considered that the Response and Awareness System needed to be strengthened.
Students hospitalised due to suspected food poisoning (Kerala) -Nearly 100 students at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Kerala’s Wayanad district’s Lakkidi area have recently developed vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach pain. This has prompted the state health department to visit the location and step up precautions. There were suspicions of a possible incidence of food poisoning.
Why it matters: Students in smaller numbers had reported falling sick even during the previous week on different days, with the first case coming up on January 24. The team of investigators took samples of the institution’s drinking water and sent them to the Kozhikode Regional Public Health Lab for testing. Children’s stool samples and blood samples were also sent to the Bathery Public Health Lab and the Alappuzha Institute of Virology, respectively.
CM hands over land documents to Sen (West Bengal) – Amartya Sen, the recipient of the Nobel Prize, has been accused of unauthorised occupancy by Visva-Bharati. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee handed over land-related paperwork to Sen on Monday, saying that “no one can challenge him” going forward. The CM visited Sen at his home and referred to the charges levelled against him as baseless.
Why it matters: In a letter sent last week, Visva-Bharati demanded that Sen quickly return a portion of a site in Santiniketan that he was allegedly illegally occupying. Sen was also given two choices by the university: “conversation with Visva-Bharati authorities or intervention of the court of law.”
Asaram convicted for rape (Gujarat) – Asaram Bapu was found guilty of rape on Monday by a Gandhinagar court, more than nine years after a former follower accused him of the crime while she was at his ashram. Six other people who were accused of aiding and abetting the crime, including Asaram’s wife, daughter and four other disciples, were let go for want of sufficient evidence.
Why it matters: After Asaram was detained by the Rajasthan Police in August 2013, the victim and her sister collected the confidence to speak out against the powerful spiritual guru who has a sizable following and operates a network of ashrams in India. The disciple was raped by Asaram Bapu several times between 2001 and 2006 while she was a resident of his ashram at Motera near Ahmedabad.
Protests against inclusion of 60 villages in Bodoland (Assam) – Numerous members of non-Bodo groups have been protesting in various areas of Assam over the past several days in opposition to the state government’s proposal to incorporate 60 villages in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
Why it matters: During the Republic Day festivities, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the government has chosen to include villages with at least 80% Bodo population in the BTR. The protestors are very unhappy because of this move. They said that the government couldn’t make such a big decision without the consent of the people.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
71% – According to a report by the Association of Democratic Reforms, 71% of sitting Meghalaya MLAs are crorepatis.