India has recently accepted an invitation to attend the next meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), to be held in Lahore in March 2017. This decision was taken by meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attended by National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, Water Resources Secretary and senior PMO officials. It signals a major shift in India’s position on talks with Pakistan on IWT as it had announced suspending talks after the Uri terror attacks in September 2016. At that time, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing a review meeting Indus Water Treaty said “Blood and water cannot flow simultaneously”.
Importantly, this development has come after two months of diplomatic negotiations, with World Bank officials playing mediator in encouraging Pakistan to extend the invitation and for India to accept.
IWT is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan. It was brokered by the World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development), signed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Karachi during 1960. It deals with sharing of water of six rivers — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum between the two countries. As per treaty, control over three eastern rivers —Ravi, Beas and Sutlej were given to India. While control over three western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab was given to Pakistan. It allows India to use only 20% of the water of Indus River, which flows through it first, for irrigation, power generation and transport. Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty. Under it, PIC was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission maintains and exchanges data and co-operates and solves disputes arising over water sharing between the two countries. The Treaty also provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably. The last round of the PIC was held in July 2016.
For over 55 years, both India and Pakistan are peacefully sharing the water of Indus and its tributaries, thanks to The Indus Water Treaty. It may be noted that both India and Pakistan are still at loggerheads over various issues since Partition, but there has been no fight over water after the Treaty was ratified. The treaty has survived India-Pakistan wars of 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil standoff besides Kashmir insurgency since 1990 and is considered as the most successful water treaty in world.