The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed between India and Pakistan on September 19, 1960, at Karachi by General Ayub Khan of Pakistan and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The negotiations over division of waters of the Indus system rivers lasted almost 12 years, from 1948 to 1960.
The total quantum of water in Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers, which together comprise the Indus basin, was pegged at 168 Million Acre Feet (MAF). Of this, 135 MAF of the Western Rivers (Chenab, Jhelum and Indus) was allotted exclusively to Pakistan and 33 MAF water of the Eastern Rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej) to India.
In percentage terms, this works out to 80.52 per cent being given to Pakistan and only 19.48 per cent for India. Besides, India has also been given right to harness waters of the Western Rivers for hydropower generation. With checks and balances regarding designs of the dams, subject to certain reasonable vetting by Pakistan.
Our western neighbour has, however, used these rights of vetting for trying to stall each and every dam that India has tried to build on the Western Rivers. These delaying tactics deployed by Pakistan lead to cost escalations, project delays and such other fallouts for us.
The IWT is perhaps the most generous and one-sided Treaty of water division (NOT WATER SHARING) signed anywhere in the world. A narrative has been carefully crafted around this as the Treaty being a shining example of mutual cooperation. This is a patent lie being perpetrated by so-called scholars and bleed-hearts who want to favour Pakistan.
With five years of its signing, in 1965, Pakistan had attacked India, under the same Ayub who was a signatory at Karachi. Why? Perhaps the 1962 war and Nehru’s death emboldened him but results of the war were not as per Pakistan’s wishes, and hopes. In 1971, there was another war. Then Pakistan meddling in Punjab, its meddling in Jammu & Kashmir (starting 1989) happened.
In 1999, the two countries fought another war in Kargil. The Treaty is touted falsely as a prime example of success of international diplomacy. India’s internal problems, and weaknesses, have ensured that the Treaty endures to this day. What if India had got 80.52 per cent water under it, and also foisted these wars on Pakistan?
We need to ask: Would Pakistan have just kept taking these repeated blows as India has done in similar circumstances? Would the Treaty have endured till date? Please answer honestly, not here but to your own question.
The Treaty was debated in the Lok Sabha on November 30, 1960, and Pandit Nehru defended it. Almost all other MPs, among them was Atal Behari Vajpayee, criticised Nehru for conceding too much to Pakistan. At that time, he kept a brave face and said that he expected the Treaty to do good for mutual relations and get goodwill of Pakistan!
That really was a sentimental statement not grounded firmly realpolitik. In 1961, chief negotiator of the Indian team, Nranjan Gulhati, demitted office. In his memoirs, Gulhati says that he went to meet Nehru in his office and the latter wondered if he has erred (or blundered) about giving too much to Pakistan. Some commentators have described IWT as Nehru’s SIXTH BLUNDER.
The real reason why Pakistan covets Jammu & Kashmir is trying to wrest control of upstream areas from where waters flow into it. Whatever peace overtures or detente may happen between the two neighbours, it is unlikely that Pakistan will ever give up casting an evil eye on J
The only guarantee of rational behaviour from Pakistan is a very robust response a la Balakot, and earlier Surgical Strikes. Heavy punishment and asymmetric damage alone can lead to keep it firmly in check. Or it will always inflict costs on India, with zero costs to it, like it had done on August 27, 2012, at Adipora when its terror proxy, Hizbul Mujahideen, had attacked an ongoing project on Wullar lake.
This was an example of effective use of terror proxies by Pakistan for settling an issue related to IWT in its favour! Settling an IWT issue in a very unconventional and dirt cheap manner. This needs to be understood by our policy planners, strategic thinkers and defence experts.
IWT needs to be studied by a good number of Indians who are interested in India-Pakistan relations. Including those who argue for bonhomie, candle light vigils and cultural exchanges. No harm in doing all this, or more, after having understood the real challenges that bedevil our relationship.
PS: The Lok Sabha debate has not been published so far.