Indus Water Treaty of 1960

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INDUS WATER TREATY OF 1960

by

William H. Thompson

[February 2013]

The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960 is an example of a mutually beneficial conflict or, as Kriesberg and Dayton would define it, a constructive conflict. Born of the dissolution of the British Crown Colony of India in 1947, the treaty recognized the mutual needs of India and Pakistan, and the necessity of ensuring continuing access to the waters of the Indus River System for both nations. Although the treaty has survived “two and a half wars and frequent military mobilizations” as well as a nuclear arms race, current moves by both Pakistan and India regarding dispute mediation threaten to dissolve the treaty. Differences in interpretation, Pakistani mismanagement of its own water resources and the ongoing question of the status of Kashmir each threaten the continued observance of the treaty. Neither nation can afford the loss of this treaty. For each nation this treaty has been a source of ongoing diplomatic relations, requiring annual meetings and open verification of water projects within the covered regions. It has been used to address non-water issues and to placate each other in times of crisis. It has also ensured that water continues to flow between the two, in spite of the strategic advantage that India could gain by stopping that flow. This paper will outline some of the dangers affecting the future of the IWT. It will address the interpretation of treaty clauses by neutral parties and how that has resulted in diplomatic escalation by Pakistan. It will address the very real concern for Pakistan that India has the superior strategic position with regard to control of the Indus System. It will also highlight the inadequate water infrastructure within Pakistan and the affect that this has on the ability of India to complete its own water projects. The paper will describe certain indicators of the health of the treaty. Finally, it will outline two scenarios for the future of the IWT and the likely outcome of each. The goal of addressing these issues is to stress the importance of this treaty over national concerns for control of water and how the mutual control of the Indus system is the best solution for both nations. Before exploring the continued existence of the Water Treaty of 1960, and the potentially far reaching effects of its nullification, it is necessary to provide a brief history of the Indo-Pakistani conflict, especially as it relates to the Kashmiri region and control of the Indus River System. When the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act of 1947, its primary concern was achieving a speedy settlement of the partition rather than the stability of the resulting entities. Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the English barrister charged with partitioning the Indian colony into two separate entities, arrived in New Delhi on 8 July 1947 to learn that the date of independence for both newly formed nations of India and Pakistan had already been set for 15 August of that same year. The rules for the partition of India and Pakistan, established in negotiations between the British representative Lord Mountbatten, the Indian National Congress representative Jawaharlal Nehru and the Muslim League representative Muhammed Ali Jennah, focused the division along religious lines. In certain provinces with no clear religious majority, most notably those bordering Punjab and Bengal, the citizens of the province were to be given the opportunity to vote over which country to join. Independent princedoms, such as Kashmir, were given the option of joining with either state, but were encouraged to hold a plebiscite if the desires of the people were in doubt. The resulting boundaries would have three far-reaching results. First, the sudden change in citizenship (from nominally British to Pakistani or Indian respectively) resulted in bloodshed and mass-exodus as Muslims moved from...
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