IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


30th June, 2023 International Relations

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The discussion surrounding the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan.


  • SDG 6 on water and sanitation is a critical goal of Agenda 2030.
  • SDG 6.5 focuses on transboundary water cooperation, driven by sustainable water management and regional collaboration.
  • The spotlight on the Indus Water Treaty has increased due to tensions between India and Pakistan.
  • India initiated a "Notice of Modification" on January 25, 2023, expressing its desire to discuss potential changes to the treaty.

Background on the Indus Water Treaty

  • The treaty was signed in 1960 to govern the sharing of the Indus River waters between India and Pakistan.
  • The treaty allocates three eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej) to India, and three western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) to Pakistan.
  • Mediated by the World Bank, the treaty is considered a successful and beneficial water-sharing initiative implemented on a global scale for 62 years.
  • The treaty is a legally binding agreement that outlines rights, responsibilities, dispute resolution mechanisms, and environmental considerations.

Importance of the Indus Water Treaty

  • Sets an example for other international water treaties and promotes effective global water management.
  • Demonstrates the integration of environmental concerns into agreements about shared water resources, aligning with sustainable development principles.
  • Contributes to the development of international water law and serves as a reference for creating similar agreements worldwide.

Need for Renegotiation

  • Changes in weather patterns and population expansion in India and Pakistan demand a re-evaluation of the treaty.
  • The Indus River system is under pressure from climate change and increased human activity, risking the extinction of species and disrupting ecosystems.
  • The treaty's focus on equitable distribution needs to be expanded to include other water sources and address additional water resource disputes.
  • The dispute resolution mechanism could be made more efficient and time-saving, potentially involving the International Court of Justice.
  • Consideration for sharing hydroelectric power, given the growing significance of renewable energy sources.

Geopolitical Dynamics and Treaty Implementation

  • Shifting dynamics between India and Pakistan, characterized by tensions and conflicts, have impacted the treaty's implementation.
  • Reviewing and updating the treaty can help resolve issues and serve as a foundation for fresh collaboration.

Uncertain Future and Diplomatic Channels

  • The decision to amend the treaty lies with India, considering national interests and relevant circumstances.
  • Diplomatic channels should be utilized to address potential changes while considering the concerns and interests of both states.

About Indus River System

  • The Indus River system is a major river system in South Asia, spanning across multiple countries.
  • It plays a crucial role in providing water resources for irrigation, drinking water, and hydropower generation.

Geographic Scope

  • The Indus River system flows through multiple countries, primarily India and Pakistan, but also parts of China and Afghanistan.
  • It originates in the Tibetan plateau and flows through the Himalayas, entering the plains of the Indian subcontinent.
  • The Indus River system consists of several major tributaries, including the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej rivers.
  • These tributaries contribute to the overall water flow and provide additional water resources to the region.

Importance for Agriculture

  • The fertile plains along the Indus River system support extensive agriculture.
  • Water from the river system is used for irrigation, enabling the cultivation of crops such as wheat, rice, cotton, and sugarcane.

Drinking Water Supply

  • The Indus River system serves as a crucial source of drinking water for millions of people in the region.
  • Cities and communities along the river depend on it for their domestic water needs.

Hydropower Generation

  • The Indus River system's fast-flowing waters offer significant potential for hydropower generation.
  • Dams and hydroelectric power plants have been constructed along the rivers to harness this renewable energy source.

Ecosystem and Biodiversity

  • The Indus River system supports diverse ecosystems and habitats.
  • It is home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species.

Challenges and Environmental Concerns

  • Climate change and increased human activity pose challenges to the Indus River system.
  • Changing weather patterns, glacial melt, and water pollution threaten the sustainability of the river's resources.

Water Management and Cooperation

  • Given the shared nature of the Indus River system, effective water management and cooperation among riparian countries are crucial.
  • The Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan plays a significant role in governing the sharing of water resources.

Future Sustainability

  • The sustainable management of the Indus River system is vital to ensure long-term availability of water resources.
  • Environmental conservation and adaptation to changing circumstances are essential for the system's continued viability.


Q) Discuss the significance of the Indus River system in South Asia, highlighting its role in agriculture, hydropower generation, and as a source of drinking water. (150 words)