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Rajya Sabha TV The Big Picture: India Pak Indus Matters

Rajya Sabha TV The Big Picture: India Pak Indus Matters

Crucial talks were held between delegations of India and Pakistan over various aspects of the Indus Water Treaty in Lahore in August, 2018. Both nations agreed to undertakethe Treaty to resolve issues on various hydroelectric projects- including the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai in Jammu &Kashmir. Discussions were held on further strengthening the role of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC).


River Indus flowing in Jammu and Kashmir, India

  • RIVER COURSE: Indus river, one of the longest rivers (3610m long) in Asia, originates in the Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of Lake Manasarovar, runs its course through Jammu and Kashmir, towards Gilgit-Baltistan and the Hindukush ranges, and then flows southwards in Pakistan to drain in the Arabian Sea (at Rann of Kutch).
  • COUNTRIES coveredby it: China (Tibet Autonomous region), India and Pakistan
  • STATES covered: Gilgit-Baltistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Jammu and Kashmir, Tibet
  • TRIBUTARIES: Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Zanskar, Kabul, etc.
  • CIVILIZATIONS AND EMPIRES DEVELOPED IN THE REGION: Indus Valley Civilization that represents one of the largest human habitations of the ancient world developed in the regions of Indus river basin. In the later years, it was dominated by the Kushan Empire and the Persian Empire. Over many centuries, armies of Muhammad Bin Qasim, Mahmud of Ghazni, Babur, etc crossed the Indus river and invaded the inner regions of the Punjab and beyond.
  • ECONOMICS: The river basin and canals in its region sustain agriculture and food production in its region and, constructed dams generate electricity.


  • It is a WATER-DISTRIBUTION TREATY, signed in Karachi on 09.1960, between INDIA (PM Jawaharlal Nehru) and PAKISTAN (President Ayub Khan), brokered by the WORLD BANK (an international financial institution formed in 1945).
  • China is not a part of the treaty.
  • Control over the water flowing in 3 “eastern” rivers of India (Beas, Ravi and Sutlej) with mean flow of 33 million acre feet (MAF) was given to India, while in 3 “western” rivers of India (Indus, Chenab and Jhelum) with mean flow of 80 MAF was given to Pakistan.
  • Acre foot is a unit of volume in reference to large scale water resources (reservoirs, canals, river flows, etc). 1 acre foot = 1,233 m3 = 43,560 ft3
  • India can use (excluding domestic, industrial and non consumptive uses from western rivers) nearly 20% of the total water carried by the Indus System of Rivers. Pakistan can use the remaining 80%.
  • India is allowed to use western rivers for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation (by run-of-river hydro power plants), industrial and non consumptive uses (navigation, fish culture, etc). But, precise regulations are laid down for India to build projects.
  • RUN-OF-RIVER HYDROELECTRICITY (ROR): It is a type of hydroelectric generation plant in which little or no water storage is provided. The normal course of the river is not materially altered. Examples: Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd, Satluj River, Shimla (1500 MW), Ghazi-Barotha Hydropower project on River Indus in Pakistan (1,450 MW), Baglihar Hydroelctric Power Projection on Chenab River in India (900 MW), etc.
  • Treaty created a “PERMANENT INDUS COMMISSION” as it was agreed to exchange data and co-operate in matters related to the treaty.
  • PERMANENT COURT OF ARBITRATION (an intergovernmental organization located in The Hague, Netherlands) or a NEUTRAL TECHNICAL EXPERT is called in cases of disagreement.
  • The Treaty is considered to be very successful as most of the disagreements anddisputes have been settled via legal procedures. India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars since the Treaty’s ratification in 1960.


  • KISHANGANGA HYDROELECTRIC PLANT: Located in Jammu and Kashmir (India) on River Kishanganga (that later merges with the Jhelum River in Pakistan) 3 units of 110 MW were inaugurated in May 2018. Its case was settled by Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013.
  • BAGLIHAR DAM: A neutral expert, Raymond Lafitte, was appointed in May 2005 by World Bank to settle the objections raised by Pakistan on this project on Chenab River in Jammu &Kashmir, India. After some technical changes, the issue was settled in June 2010.

Baglihar Dam

  • LEFT BANK OUTFALL DRAIN: It is a drainage canal in Pakistan. It bypasses the saline and polluted water to reach Arabian Sea via Rann of Kutch. This is contaminating the quality of water bodies in the Gujarat state of India.
  • PAKAL DUL DAM: It is a proposed dam on the Marusadar River (a tributary of River Chenab) in Jammu &Kashmir, India. Pakistan is raising objections on it as per the treaty, which India is denying.


  • India can reduce the water flow to Pakistan under the provisions of the Treaty. It can utilize the maximum of 20% water sharing which it is permitted.
  • Violating the Treaty may not be a good option as the Treaty is meant to reduce the hostilities between India and Pakistan. Also, it requires a lot of infrastructure to store the additional water available.
  • Violating the treaty may also bring China in action which can block the flow of Brahmaputra River flowing to India. Terror activities from Pakistanmay also get intensified.
  • India is keeping an eye on a permanent seat in United Nations Security Council. So, it should safeguard such treaties which involve international bodies (World Bank in this case).


Indus Water Treaty is time tested over decades. But, India is serious to review the Treaty in aftermath of the 2016 Uri attacks. If required, India can put pressure on Pakistan by utilizing maximum of water sharing it is allowed within the scope of the treaty. The Treaty has prevented any water wars between the two nations and so its provisions shall be maintained by both the nations.