Understanding the Indus Water Treaty

Contact Counsellor

Understanding the Indus Water Treaty

  • A 10-member delegation from India will visit Pakistan to attend the 117th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission.
  • The Indian Commissioner of Indus Waters will lead the delegation visiting Pakistan.

Pakistan’s possible objections

  • A possible objection to 3 hydro-power projects:
  1. 1000 Megawatt (MW) Pakal Dul project,
  2. 48 MW Lower Kalnai project,
  3. 624 MW Kiru project.

The Indus Waters Treaty

  • The Inter-dominion accord was adopted in1948.
  • India to supply water to Pakistan in exchange for an annual payment.
  • It is a Water-Distribution Treaty signed in 1960 brokered by the World Bank.
  • India has control over water flowing in the eastern rivers - Beas, Ravi and Sutlej.
  • Pakistan has control over the western rivers - Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.
  • The water commissioners of Pakistan and India are required to meet twice a year.
  • Both sides are required to share details of the water flow and the quantum of water being used.
  • It sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers.

Some Key provisions

  • It prescribed how water from the six rivers of the Indus River System would be shared between India and Pakistan.
  • 3 western rivers - Indus, Chenab and Jhelum to Pakistan, 3 Eastern rivers - Ravi, Beas and Sutlej to India.
  • 80% of the share of water or about 135 Million Acre Feet (MAF) went to Pakistan, & the rest 33 MAF or 20% of water for India.
  • Both sides to establish a Permanent Indus Commission constituted by permanent commissioners.
  • The functions of the commission include:
  1. serve as a forum for exchange of information on rivers,
  2. For continued cooperation,
  3. A first stop for resolution of conflicts.
  • Annexure C allows India certain agricultural uses over the waters of Jhelum, Chenab and Indus.
  • Annexure D allows India to build ‘run of the river’ hydropower projects(projects not requiring live storage of water).
  • Treaty also allows Pakistan to raise objections over such projects being built by India.
  • India is allowed to have a minimum storage level on the western rivers(can store up to 3.75 MAF of water for conservation and flood storage purposes).
  • The IWT provides a 3 step dispute resolution mechanism:
  • For unresolved questions and technical differences, either side can approach the World Bank.

Past Objections

  • One of the longest objections from Pakistan’s side is regarding the Kishanganga Hydro-Electric Project (KHEP).
  • KHEP: diverting water for a 330 MW hydropower plant in Kashmir’s Bandipora.
  • Pakistan had raised objections regarding the height of the dam.
  • India agreed to alter the design by lowering its height from 97 meters to 37 meters.
  • 2010: Pakistan took the matter to the International Court of Arbitration.
  • 2013: Court gave India a green signal for the project.
  • Pakistan had objected to the Salal dam project in 1970 over design concerns.
  • followed by the 900 MW Baglihar Hydropower project.

IWT and Political and Border conflicts

  • IWT has been brought up a couple of times during geo-political tension between India and Pakistan.
  • After Uri attack: PM states Blood and water cannot flow simultaneously.
  • Permanent Indus Commission talks were suspended for that year by the Indian side.
  • Pulwama 2019: India for the first time threatened to cut off water supply to Pakistan from the Indus River System.


  • Though the IWT and geopolitical scenario are well connected, India never violated the treaty inspite of Pakistan's aggression at borders and their continuous activities to destabilize the region.