Question: Present an account of the Indus Water Treaty and examine its ecological, economic and political implications in the context of changing bilateral relations.
Answer: The Indus River water treaty is awater sharing agreement between India and Pakistan that was signed in 1960 under the deal brokered by the World Bank. The water treaty demarcates water sharing between western and eastern rivers of the Indus basin.
The Indus, Jhelum and Chenab rivers are allocated to Pakistan and India can just utilise 20% of the river water for non-irrigation projects. The Ravi, Beas and Satluj are earmarked exclusively for Indian usage including irrigation purposes.
Ecological, economic and political implications of the treaty
- Ecological implications
The Indus river basin is one of the most densely populated region with high demand for water. The basin is mostly fed by Himalayan rivers and thus maintaining constant water flow is important. The treaty regulates proper usage of water and stops unilateral decision by upstream country. This ensures that the ecology of river system is maintained during the course of the flow. If the river flow goes below certain level, the area can turn into a desert.
- Economic implications
The Indus river and its tributaries are considered the heartbeat of Pakistan’s agrarian economy. About 60% of its population resides in the river plain and river water sustains agriculture. If water flow is decreased by constructing dams in upstream areas, Pakistani economy will be in tatters and large population will be pushed into poverty. In present situation where Pakistani economy is on the verge of bankruptcy, stopping river water will be final nail in the coffin.
- Political implications
India has been vocal about its desire to use Indus water treaty as a bargaining chip to tackle Pakistan on strategic issues. Indian government has warned Pakistan from meddling into Kashmir affairs by threatening to use treaty as a leverage point. Considering Pakistan’s political scenario, which is based on Kashmir rhetoric, Indus treaty will prove to be handy for India.
India may revoke the Indus river treaty but at the expense of international backlash. India’s credibility will suffer on international platform if the treaty is revoked.
Thus, Indus Water Treaty is very important for India and Pakistan especially the later for sustaining its economy and population. The implications of the treaty is of utmost significance.