The Indus Waters Treaty

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The Indus Waters Treaty

Historical context

The partition of the Indian subcontinent created a conflict over the waters of the Indus basin.  In 1951, David Lilienthal wrote an influential article in Colliers magazine suggesting that the World Bank use its good offices to bring India and Pakistan to an agreement over how to share and manage the river system.  The President of the World Bank, Eugene R. Black, agreed to act as a conduit of agreement between the two states.  Finally, in 1960, after several years of arduous negotiations did an agreement take form.  Even today, the Indus Waters Treaty is the only agreement that has been faithfully implemented and upheld by both India and Pakistan.  Following the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, several high profile commentators in India suggested that the treaty should be scrapped, though the Indian government made no intimations that it was considering such a move.  [For further information...]

Abridged Text of Indus Waters Treaty (Signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960)

The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan, being equally desirous of attaining the most complete and satisfactory utilisation of the waters of the Indus system of rivers and recognising the need, therefore, of fixing and delineating, in a spirit of goodwill and friendship, the rights and obligations of each in relation to the other concerning the use of these waters and of making provision for the settlement, in a cooperative spirit, of all such questions as may hereafter arise in regard to the interpretation or application of the provisions agreed upon herein, have resolved to conclude a Treaty in furtherance of these objectives, and for this purpose have named as their plenipotentiaries:

The Government of India: Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, and The Government of Pakistan: Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, H.P., H.J., President of Pakistan, who, having communicated to each other their respective Full Powers and having found them in good and due form, have agreed upon the following Articles and An


 Article II

 Provisions Regarding Eastern Rivers

 All the waters of the Eastern Rivers shall be available for the unrestricted use of Inida, except as otherwise expressly provided in this Article.

Except for Domestic Use and Non-Consumptive Use, Pakistan shall be under an obligation to let flow, and shall not permit any interference with, the waters of the Sutlej Main and the Ravi Main in the reaches where these rivers flow in Pakistan and have not yet finally crossed into Pakistan. The points of final crossing are the following: (a) near the new Hasta Bund upstream of Suleimanke in the case of the Sutlej Main, and (b) about one and a half miles upstream of the syphon for the B-D Link in the case of the Ravi Main.

Except for Domestic Use, Non-Consumptive Use and Agricultural Use, Pakistan shall be under an obligation to let flow, and shall not permit any interference with, the waters (while flowing in Pakistan) of any Tributary which in its natural course joins the Sutlej Main or the Ravi Main before these rivers have finally crossed into Pakistan.

All the waters, while flowing in Pakistan, of any Tributary which, in its natural course, joins the Sutlej Main or the Ravi Main after these rivers have finally crossed into Pakistan shall be available for the unrestricted use of Pakistan: Provided however that this provision shall not be construed as giving Pakistan any claim or right to any releases by India in any such Tributary.

There shall be a Transition Period during which India shall (i) limit its withdrawals for Agricultural Use, (ii) limit abstractions for storages, and (iii) make deliveries to Pakistan from the Eastern Rivers.

The Transition Period shall begin on 1st April 1960 and it shall end on 31st March 1970, or, if extended under the provisions of Part 8 of Annexure H, on the date up to which it has been extended. In any event, whether the Transition Period shall end not later than 31st March 1973.

During the Transition Period, Pakistan shall receive for unrestricted use the waters of the Eastern Rivers which are to be released by India in accordance with the provisions of Annexure H. After the end of the Transition Period, Pakistan shall have no claim or right to releases by India of any of the waters of the Eastern Rivers. In case there are any releases, Pakistan shall enjoy the unrestricted use of the waters so released after they have finally crossed into Pakistan: Provided that in the event that Pakistan makes any use of these waters, Pakistan shall not acquire any right whatsover, by prescription or otherwise, to a continuance of such releases or such use.


Article III

Provision Regarding Western Rivers

 Pakistan shall receive for unrestricted use all those waters of the Western Rivers which India is under obligation to let flow under the provisions of Paragraph (2).

India shall be under an obligation to let flow all the waters of the Western Rivers, and shall not permit any interference with these waters, except for the following uses, restricted in the case of each of the rivers, The Indus, The Jhelum and The Chenab, to the drainage basin thereof: (a) Domestic Use; (b) Non-Consumptive Use; (c) Agricultural Use, as set out in Annexure C; and (d) Generation of hydro-electric power, as set out in Annexure D.

Pakistan shall have the unrestricted use of all waters originating from sources other than the Eastern Rivers which are delivered by Pakistan into The Ravi or The Sutlej, and India shall not make use of these waters.

Except as provided in Annexures D and E, India shall not store any water of, or construct any storage works on, the Western Rivers.


Article IV

Provisions Regarding Eastern Rivers and Western Rivers

 Pakistan shall use its best endeavors to construct and bring into operation with due regard to expedition and economy, that part of a system of work which will accomplish the replacement, from the Western Rivers and other sources, of water supplies for irrigation canals in Pakistan which, on 15th August 1947, were dependent on water supplies from the Eastern Rivers.

Each Party agrees that any Non-Consumptive Use made by it shall be made as not to materially change, on account of such use, the flow in any channel to the prejudice of the uses on that channel by the other Party under the provisions of this Treaty.

Nothing in this Treaty shall be construed as having the effect of preventing either Party from undertaking schemes of drainage, river training, conservation of soil against erosion and dredging, or from removal of stones, gravel or sand from the beds of the Rivers: Provided that in executing any of the schemes mentioned above, each Party will avoid, as far as practicable, any material damage to the other Party.

Pakistan shall maintain in good order its portions of the drainages mentioned below with capacities not less than the capacities as on the Effective Date: (i) Hudiara Drain, (ii) Kasur Nala, (iii) Salimshah Drain, (iv) Fazilka Drain.

If Inida finds it necessary that any of the drainages mentioned in Paragraph (4) should be deepened or widened in Pakistan, Pakistan agrees to undertake to do so as a work of public interest, provided India agrees to pay the cost of the deepening or widening.

Each Party will use its best endeavors to maintain the natural channels of the Rivers, as on the Effective Date, in such condition as will avoid, as far as practicable, any obstruction to the flow in these channels likely to cause material damage to the other Party.

Neither Party will take any action which would have the effect of diverting the Ravi Main between Madhopur and Lahore, or the Sutlej Main between Harike and Suleimanke, from its natural channel between high banks.

The use of the natural channels of the Rivers for the discharge of flood or other excess waters shall be free and not subject to limitation by either Party, and neither Party shall have any claim against the other in respect of any damage caused by such use. Each Party agrees to communicate to the other Party, as far in advance as practicable, any information it may have in regard to such extraordinary discharges of water from reservoirs and flood flows as may affect the other Party.

Each Party declares its intention to operate its storage dams, barrages and irrigation canals in such manner, consistent with the normal operations of its hydraulic systems, as to avoid, as far as feasible, material damage to the other Party.

Each Party declares its intention to prevent, as far as practicable, undue pollution of the waters of the Rivers which might affect adversely uses similar in nature to those to which the waters were put on the Effective Date, and agrees to take all reasonable measures to ensure that, before any sewage or industrial waste is allowed to flow into the Rivers, it will be treated, where necessary, in such manner as not materially to affect those uses: Provided that the criterion of reasonableness shall be the customary practice in similar situations on the Rivers.

The Parties agree to adopt, as far as feasible, appropriate measures for recovery, and restoration to owners, of timber and other property floated or floating down the Rivers, subject to appropriate charges being paid by the owners.

Except as otherwise required by the express provisions of this Treaty, nothing in this Treaty shall be construed as affecting existing territorial rights over the waters of any of the Rivers or the beds or banks thereof, or as affecting existing property rights under municipal law over such waters or beds or banks.


Article V

Financial Provisions

 In consideration of the fact that the purpose of part of the system of works referred to in Article IV (1) is the replacement, from the Western Rivers and other sources, of water supplies for irrigation canals in Pakistan which on 15th August 1947 were dependent on water supplies from the Eastern Rivers, India agrees to make a fixed contribution of Pounds Sterling 62,060,000 towards the costs of these works.

The sum of Pounds Sterling 62,060,000 shall be paid in ten equal installments on the 1st of November of each year.

Each of the instalments shall be paid to the Bank for the credit of the Indus Basin Development Fund to be established and administered by the Bank.

These financial provisions shall not be construed as conferring upon India any right to participate in the decisions as to the system of works which Pakistan constructs or as constituting an assumption of any responsibility by India or as an agreement by India in regard to such works.

Except for such payments as are specifically provided for in this Treaty, neither Party shall be entitled to claim any payment for observance of the provisions of this Treaty or to make any charge for water received from it by the other Party.


Article VI

 Exchange of Data

The following data with respect to the flow in, and utilisation of the waters of, the Rivers shall be exchanged regularly between the Parties: (a) Daily guage and discharge data relating to flow of the Rivers at all observation sites. (b) Daily extractions for or releases from reservoirs. (c) Daily withdrawals at the heads of all canals operated by government or by a government agency, including link canals. (d) Daily escapages from all canals, including link canals. (e) Daily deliveries from link canals.


Article VII

Future Co-operation

The two Parties recognize that they have a common interest in the optimum development of the Rivers, and, to that end, they declare their intention to co-operate, by mutual agreement, to the fullest possible extent.


Article VIII

Permanent Indus Commission

India and Pakistan shall each create a permanent post of Commissioner for Indus Waters, and shall appoint to this post, as often as a vacancy occurs, a person who should ordinarily be a high-ranking engineer competent in the field of hydrology and water-use. Unless either Government should decide to take up any particular question directly with the other Government, each Commissioner will be the representative of his Government for all matters arising out of this Treaty, and will serve as the regular channel of communication on all matters relating to the implementation of the Treaty, and, in particular, with respect to (a) the furnishing or exchange of information or data provided for in the Treaty; and (b) the giving of any notice or response to any notice provided for in the Treaty.

The status of each Commissioner and his duties and responsibilities towards his Government will be determined by that Government.

The two Commissioners shall together form the Permanent Indus Commission.

The purpose and functions of the Commission shall be to establish and maintain co-operative arrangements for the implementation of this Treaty and to promote co-operation between the Parties in the development of the waters of the Rivers.

The Commission shall determine its own procedures.


Article IX

Settlement of Differences and Disputes

 Any question which arises between the Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Treaty or the existence of any fact which, if established, might constitute a breach of this Treaty shall first be examined by the Commission, which will endeavor to resolve the question by agreement.

If the Commission does not reach agreement on any of the questions mentioned in the Paragraph (1), then a difference will be deemed to have arisen, which shall be dealt with by a Neutral Expert. If the Neutral Expert has informed the Commission that, in his opinion, the difference should be treated as a dispute, then a dispute will be deemed to have arisen.

As soon as a dispute to be settled has arisen, the Commission shall, at the request of either Commissioner, report the fact to the two Governments, as early as practicable, stating in its report the points on which the Commisssion is in agreement and the issues in dispute, the views of each Commissioner on these issues and his reasons therefor.

Either Government may, following receipt of the report, or if it comes to the conclusion that this report is being unduly delayed in the Commission, invite the other Government to resolve the dispute by agreement.

A court of Arbitration shall be established to resolve the dispute.


Article X

 Emergency Provisions

 If, at any time prior to 31st March 1965, Pakistan should represent to the Bank that, because of the outbreak of large-scale international hostilities arising out of causes beyond the control of Pakistan, it is unable to obtain from abroad the materials and equipment necessary for the completion, by 31st March 1973, of that part of the system of works referred to in Article IV (1) which related to the replacement referred to therein, (hereinafter referred to as the replacement element) and if, after consideration of this representation in consultation with India, the Bank is of the opinion that (a) these hostilities are on a scale of which the consequence is that Pakistan is unable to obtain in time such materials and equipment as must be procured from abroad for the completion, by 31st March 1973, of the replacement element, and (b) since the Effective Date, Pakistan has taken all reasonable steps to obtain the said materials and equipment and has carried forward the construction of the replacement element with due dilligence and all reasonable expedition, the Bank shall immediately notify each of the Parties accordingly. The Parties undertake that in being so notified, they will forthwith consult together and enlist the good offices of the Bank in their consultation, with a view to reaching mutual agreement as to whether or not, in light of all circumstances prevailing, any modifications of the provisions of this Treaty are appropriate and advisable and, if so, the nature and the extent of the modifications.


Article XII

Final Provisions

This Treaty consists of the Preamble, the Articles hereof and Annexures A to H hereto, and may be cited as "The Indus Waters Treaty 1960."

This Treaty shall be ratified and the ratifications therof shall be exchanged in New Delhi. It shall enter into force upon the exchange of ratifications, and will then take effect retrospectively form the first of April 1960.

The provisions of this Treaty may from time to time be modified by a duly ratified treaty concluded for that purpose between the two Governments.

The provisions of this Treaty, or the provisions of this Treaty as modified under the provisions of Paragraph (3), shall continue in force until terminated by a duly ratified treaty concluded for that purpose between the two Governments.

In witness whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed this Treaty and have hereunto affixed their seals.

Done in triplicate in English at Karachi on this Nineteenth day of September 1960.

For the Government of India:
Jawaharlal Nehru

For the Government of Pakistan:
Mohammad Ayub Khan
Field Marshal, H.P., H.J.

For the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development:
W. A. B. Iliff