Present an account of the Indus Water Treaty and examine its ecological, economic and political implications in the context of changing bilateral relations.

The Indus Waters Treaty is a treaty between India and Pakistan for the distribution of the water of the Indus river and its tributaries. The treaty was signed in 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan. As per the treaty, India got the control of Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej and Pakistan got the control of Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum.

The treaty is significant from the aspect of ecological, economic, and political implications and the bilateral relation between India and Pakistan.


By the treaty, India was allocated about 16% of the total water of the Indus system and Pakistan got 84%. The storage capacity permitted by the treaty for setting up hydropower stations is much less than the total annual silt that could fulfill the total hydro potential. It became essential for Jammu and Kashmir to resort to costly de-silting of its reservoirs in order to keep them operational. Pakistan is on its way to construct several multi-purpose water reservoirs that could create a threat to downstream areas in Pakistan as well as the Kutch region in India during any accident like a dam break, earthquake.


Because of the ratification of the Indus Waters Treaty, the enhanced irrigation facility led to an increase in agricultural production for India as well as Pakistan. Many opportunities have emerged for development, irrigation, and economic expansion. The construction of dams will ensure the energy supply for both nations.


From a diplomatic point of view, the treaty plays a very significant role in India. Violation of the ceasefire agreement is a common incident from the Pakistan side. Apart from that Pakistan is directly or indirectly provokes terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. Blocking the water of the Indus river basin India could put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan with the demand for the eradication of terrorism.


The Indus Water treaty is significant for both nations. In the future, it could strengthen the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan by ensuring peace and understanding.


1 Comment

  1. aniket

    June 9, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    IWT is an exemplary bilateral treaty for transboundary rivers. In times where Karnataka and Tamil nadu are not able to sort our their issues on cauvery water, the IWT has even withstood the times of war.
    IWT summary:
    India gets the complete right of the Easten Rivers’ usage(Sutlej, Beas, Ravi) while Pakistan gets the rights on the Western rivers(Indus, Jhelum, Chenab)
    India has the right of usage for 20% of the eastern rivers for livelihood purposes only. Large projects on these rivers cannot be done by India and even small projects can be done only by taking Pakistan into confidence.
    To implement the agreement an Indus Water Commission was established

    Ecological implication:
    Irrigation has been explored to a great extent in the Punjab-Haryana-Rajasthan region. This while has fed the nation through green revolution, is facing a severe ecological crisis.
    This is semi-arid region. De-forestation to expand agriculture has caused severe soil erosion in the region. This has also resulted in frequent flash floods.
    Soil salinity and alkalinity has been increasing due to excessive irrigation. If not checked there is a danger of desertification.
    The biggest impact (i think personally) is the increase in cancer cases from punjab due to chemical agriclture. Without solving the above pending issues, expanding the activities to counter pakistan would be disastorous.
    The treaty has constrained “developmental” works on the himalayan region of the rivers. This I think is a positive impact on the ecology with the himalayan region also being siesmically sensitive. If dams are built to teach pakistan a lesson, it can be self defeating in the long run.
    Economic implication:
    The green revolution has brought economic prosperity the punjab region but J&K has not been able to optimally use its water resources due to constant bickering of Pakistan for even small project India wants to implement which is within the terms of the treaty.
    The reversal of the treaty can bring prosperity to the J&K people with hydro projects and increased agricultural engagement.
    The confrontation can lead to a war causing economic stress on the country.
    Political implication:
    With J&K being a major issue between Indo-Pak relations, there is scope for high rhetoric on both the sides of the border which can spiral out of control
    Economic prosperity to J&K can reduce the in-grown insurgency, while pakistan might try to keep it up as per they want it.
    With Pak-China relations deepening(and indo-china relations declining), there could be pressure from china as they are the upper riparian of major indian rivers.


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