Indus Water Treaty


Indus water treaty between India and Pakistan is the epitome of the most generous water-sharing pacts in the world. The conflict between India and Pakistan following the attack at the army base in Uri has brought the Indus water treaty to the light again. India seeks to revisit the treaty in order to turn up the heat on Pakistan without actually waging war. But can India turn off the Indus tap to force Pakistan not to allow its territory to be used for cross – border terrorism?


Implications of Abrogating the Treaty 

On India

  • India may face environmental damage if it decides to disregard the treaty as the country lacks large-scale storage dams or reservoirs to change the flow of water. Moreover, it would take years to build big dams or reservoirs. There is also a risk of flood attached to building storage facilities. Further, the high seismicity of the region makes the construction of large reservoirs infeasible and would increase the risk of earthquakes.
  • The decision of using the Treaty as means to settle scores with Pakistan may further abet the terror attacks in the country. In order to check terrorist activity, huge security forces will have to be deployed and this would further increase the burden on the Indian economy.
  • It will be unwise on India’s part to abrogate the treaty as it would further deteriorate its relations with Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan can use the tampering with the pact as a fodder to abet anti-India feelings among people and create propaganda on Kashmir issues.
  • India has similar kind of treaty with other neighbouring countries. The decision to scrap the treaty would make other smaller neighbours uneasy.
  • China is Pakistan’s all-weather friend, and if India uses the treaty as a retributive tool against Pakistan, China might retaliate by stopping the flow of Indus and other rivers like Brahmaputra by building a dam.
  • India needs to keep in mind that 1960 Treaty is an international agreement. Unilateral withdrawal from it will invite global condemnation.

On Pakistan

India’s decision to rescind the treaty would affect Pakistan severely as it is highly dependent upon the water of Indus. About 65% area of Pakistan is a part of the Indus basin river system. The water from the western Indus rivers is essential for drinking, irrigation and other purposes. Thus, If Pakistan is deprived of the water from Indus, the country may face drought – like conditions.


  • The Indus Water treaty is a simple and most liberal water sharing agreement. The treaty has served the interest of both the countries so far.  India is very much entitled to take an appropriate action in the wake of Uri attack but it should not be a knee-jerk reaction. As a mature country, it will be imprudent on India’s part to unilaterally disregard the Indus Waters Treaty.  India can pressurize Pakistan just by exercising its rights on western rivers. It would be enough to give Pakistan jitters without violating any other provisions of the treaty. Moreover, India, at present, enjoys the moral high ground, the scraping the treaty would lead to a loss of credibility. Since Indus Water Treaty is an international agreement, repealing of the agreement would invite criticisms by world powers and it may affect India dreams of becoming a permanent member of the United Nation Security Council. If India ignores international norms and treats the Indus waters as a tool to punish Pakistan, it will unfortunately lead to huge human insecurity in the neighbouring country. Instead of abrogating the treaty, India can go for its revision as the treaty do not adequately address contemporary issues, like increased population, climatic and environmental pressures.

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