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Abhas asked: What could be the regional implications if India decides to renegotiate the Indus Water Treaty?

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  • Uttam Kumar Sinha replies: After the partition in 1947 it was inevitable that the water sharing needed immediate attention. After 8-years of painstaking negotiations, the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) was signed in 1960. The Treaty was voluntarily accepted by the two sides as ‘fair and equitable’. The Treaty clearly lays out provisions and restrictions for the upper riparian and thus safeguards the lower riparian interest. India respects and values the Treaty and abides by it and Pakistan can seek the services of a neutral expert or court of arbitration on issues where it feels India is ‘not respecting’ the Treaty. India also considers the IWT as an important mechanism for regional cooperation. So, clearly there is no real value in renegotiation.

    Pakistan in spite of all the noises it makes domestically about India ‘stealing waters’ or ‘waging water war’ will also not seek renegotiation. Pakistan can ‘talk’ about water ‘needs’ but cannot ‘negotiate’ about water ‘rights’. The IWT has settled it. But if Pakistan wants to negotiate, it would mean scrapping the IWT and formulating an entirely new one. It knows that it cannot get a better and generous treaty as the IWT. But India can be pushed to abrogate the IWT if Pakistan, for example, continues to abet terrorism. This will be a huge political decision based on consensus. However, Article VII of the Treaty, which deals with future co-operation, recognises the common interest of both sides in the optimum development of the rivers. This is the direction that Pakistan should move towards and work with India on it.