Water is likely to be the most divisive issue between India and Pakistan. Or water could, with imagination and political will, become the basis for enduring bilateral cooperation. The irony is that despite the many wars that India and Pakistan have fought over a variety of issues, water is the one area where the two countries had found accommodation through the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. The challenge for the two governments, therefore, is to now ensure that cooperation in this respect is not derailed. Rebuilding trust over the sharing of the Indus waters could even become the precursor for generating trust in other areas of conflict.
Understanding the Indus River System:
The Indus Water Treaty sets out the legal framework for the sharing of thewaters of six rivers: the Indus River and its five tributaries. All six rivers -Indus, Chenab, Jhelum, Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi - flow through northern Indiainto Pakistan. Under the pact, the waters of three rivers - the Indus, theChenab and the Jhelum, which pass through Jammu & Kashmir - are to beused by Pakistan, while India has rights to the waters of the Sutlej, the Beasand the Ravi before these three enter Pakistani territory. The Chenab is the keytributary, as it carries the waters of the rest four rivers into the Indus.
The complicated origins of the Indus river system plays a key role in thewater debates, as the rivers originate in and pass through a number ofcountries. According to the Indus Water Treaty, the following three rivers arefor use by Pakistan:
The Indus River: originates in Chinese-controlled Tibet and flowsthrough Jammu & Kashmir.
The Chenab: originates in India’s Himachal Pradesh state, travelsthrough Jammu & Kashmir.
The Jhelum: rises in Jammu & Kashmir and flows into Pakistan, finallyjoining Chenab.The Treaty affords India use of the following three rivers:
The Sutlej: originates in Tibet, flows through Himachal Pradesh andPunjab before joining the Chenab....