ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Was the Indus Waters Treaty in Trouble?

The Indus Treaty between India and Pakistan has acquired a reputation internationally as a successful instance of conflict resolution. It has been working reasonably well despite a difficult political relationship between the two countries and was not abrogated even during periods of war. It appears to have survived the recent crisis as well.

In recent weeks, in the context of the grave deterioration in the relationship between India and Pakistan, with the two countries seemingly on the brink of open war, there were several reports and interviews in the media about whether the Indus Treaty 1960 was likely to be, or should be, abrogated. The present writer had repeatedly to explain the position as he saw it to the media, Indian and foreign (TV and radio channels, newspapers, journals). The crisis seems to have passed, but it might nevertheless be useful to put the position down in writing. But first, a brief explanation about the Treaty would be in order.

In 1947 the line of Partition of the Indian subcontinent cut across the Indus system. There had been considerable irrigation development in the undivided Punjab based on the waters of the Indus system. This was disrupted by Partition and the largescale movement of people. An understanding on water-sharing between the two new countries formed by Partition became necessary. It was also necessary to facilitate the development of irrigation systems in the western part of Punjab that went to Pakistan. After prolonged talks between the two governments, mediated by the good offices of the World Bank, the Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960.

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