Indus Waters Treaty

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About Indus Waters Treaty

Signed: 1960/09/09

Agreement Type: binding, trans-national

Included in Agreement
Riparians - India, Pakistan
Water Resources - Indus River

All Facts about Indus Waters Treaty

Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 is a transnational water agreement between the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, brokered by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now, World Bank).[1] It was signed on September 19, 1960 by the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru and the President of Pakistan, Mohammad Ayub Kahn.


The treaty gives exclusive use of the three Eastern rivers of the Indus (Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi rivers) to India at the points before which the rivers enter Pakistan. Small portions of the rivers cross into Pakistan, then return to India, before their final entrance into Pakistan. The Treaty allocates the three Western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) to Pakistan.

The treaty additionally had information sharing requirements related to flows and flood data, and it stipulates the methods for settlement of water related disputes between India and Pakistan. The treaty establishes the Permanent Indus Commission, comprised of a commissioner from each riparian to facilitate information exchange.

Summary of Articles and Provisions

Article I - Definitions

Article I provides definitions to terms used in the IWT

Article II - Provisions Regarding Eastern Rivers

Article II expresses that the Eastern Rivers are available for India’s unrestricted use, with the exceptions to this being addressed by additional sections within the article. Exceptions are made for Domestic and non-consumptive use by those living in proximity to the tributaries in the areas in which the rivers flow in Pakistan, but are before the final crossing of the rivers into Pakistan and define the locations of final crossing for the Sutlej and Ravi. Article II refers to exceptions for agricultural use in these areas that are detailed in Annexure B. This Article also expresses that after the Eastern rivers make their final crossing into Pakistan, pakistan may have unrestricted use of the waters and that of tributaries that join the main rivers after the final crossing points. It establishes that each Party must establish discharge observation stations to ensure that these agreements are met and that Pakistan would meet the cost of establishing the stations and would perform the measurements and monitoring. A “Transition Period” for India to limit withdrawals and storage for a ten year period during which Pakistan would be able to use the waters of the Eastern rivers while they were taking the steps to end reliance on these sources and provides instructions on procedures for extending this period, if necessary.

Article III - Provisions Regarding Western Rivers

Article III allocates the Western Rivers for Pakistan’s unrestricted use and establishes the exceptions to this policy. It requires India to “let flow all the waters of the Western Rivers” but allows for domestic, non-consumptive, and limited agricultural use (described in Annexure C) and generation of hydropower (described in Annexure D). It establishes that each Party must establish discharge observation stations to ensure that these agreements are met and that Pakistan would meet the cost of establishing the stations and would perform the measurements and monitoring in Pakistan. It explicitly states that India cannot store water or construct storage works on the western rivers, except as provided in Annexures D and E.

Article IV - Provisions Regarding Eastern Rivers and Western Rivers

Article IV requires Pakistan to construct a water supply system that will use the waters allocated to them to replace the water required by those who had previously relied on the Eastern Rivers. It describes that non-consumptive uses cannot change the flow in any channel in such a way that could negatively impact the other party. It stipulates that flood control/protection projects must prevent causing material damage, “as far as practicable” to the other nation. It states that such projects on the Western Rivers flowing in India, cannot involve the use or storage of water. The Article states that the Treaty does not prevent either nation from initiating drainage or river training projects, soil conservation, dredging, or other projects that remove material from the riverbed provided that

a) these actions avoid material damage to the other party;
b) such projects in India on the Western rivers do not involve water use or storage in addition to those provided in Article III;
c) India does not pursue projects that would increase catchment area or develop drainage projects that could impact Pakistan;
d) Pakistan must ensure that any additional drainage into the waters received from India must not impair its ability to deal with drainage waters received from India.

The Article also provides several requirements for drainage, diversions, storage operations and channel maintenance that seek to prevent material damage to either party. Notably, if India finds that Pakistan needs to increase drainage capacity for specific drains, Pakistan will do so, provided that India pays for such work. This Article requires each party to inform the other party when “extraordinary discharges” or flood flows may affect the other party. It expresses the intent of the parties to prevent “undue pollution” and take measures to ensure that sewage/industrial waste is treated before flowing into the rivers. It prevents the nations from claiming any right to continuance of any use of waters that is not in accordance with the IWT and states that the IWT does not affect any existing territorial rights over the rivers, banks or beds and does not affect the existing property rights over the waters, banks or beds.

Article V - Financial Provisions

This Article addresses the financial commitments made to the development projects required to enact the Treaty. India agreed to contribute 62,060,00 pounds sterling toward the projects that would allow the replacement of Eastern waters in Pakistan with waters from other sources and stipulates the payment terms. The Article sets out payments to India by the Indus Basin Development Fund in the case that the Transition Period (Article II and Annexure H) is extended.

Article VI - Exchange of Data

Article VI establishes the types and frequency of data that must be collected and shared between parties. The daily records for gauge and discharge data at observation sites, reservoir extractions/releases, government operated canal withdrawals, canal escapage and canal deliveries must be transmitted monthly. It addresses how requests for data outside of standard reporting would be achieved.

Article VII - Future Co-operation

Article VII outlines how the parties will cooperate on requests for observation, new drainage works, and engineering works on the Rivers. It requires the riparians to cooperate on any projects in which there is a potential for interference with waters of any of the Rivers that could affect the other party.

Article VIII - Permanent Indus Commission

Article VIII establishes the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) in which each country provides a permanent post of Commissioner for Indus Waters and that person should be a high-ranking engineer. Each commissioner serves as the representative of his government for all matters relating to the IWT. It establishes this commission as the method for exchanging data and providing notice between governments regarding any topic covered in the IWT. The PIC is required to meet each year and tour the Rivers for general inspection every five years. Upon request by one party, they must meet or tour works or sites upon the Rivers as many times as required. The annual meeting alternates between India and Pakistan. The commission must submit an annual report by June 1st each year regarding the year ending 31 March. Each government is financially responsible for their own commissioner and his staff.

Article IX - Settlement of Differences and Disputes

Article IX outlines the procedures for dispute resolution in accordance with Annexure F. This includes the procedures for including a neutral expert for the purposes of dispute resolution and government reporting requirements during this process.

Article X - Emergency Provision

Article X outlines provisions regarding what should take place if international hostilities prevent the actions required during the Transition Period described in Article II.

Article XI - General Provisions

Article XI notably expresses that the treaty governs the rights and responsibilities of the riparians “in relation to the other with respect only to use of the waters of the Rivers and matters incidental thereto.”

Article XII - Final Provisions

Article XII contains information about ratification, continuation of the treaty, and methods for modifying the treaty.


The treaty was signed by Jawahralal Nehru of India, Mohammad Ayub Khan of Pakistan, and W. A. B. Iliff for the IBRD (World Bank).


Annexure A contains an exchange of correspondence between India and Pakistan. Annexure B details allowed agricultural use of water from specified tributaries of the Ravi by Pakistan discussed in Article II. Annexure C details allowed agricultural use of waters from the Western Rivers by India. Annexure D addresses Indian hydro-electric power generation on the Western rivers. Notably, it allows continuance of existing projects and requirements for initiating new projects and outlines specific design requirements. Annexure E addresses water storage by India on the Western Rivers under the provisions of Article III. Notably, it outlines the allowed capacity for general, power and flood storage projects on each of the rivers. Annexure F discuses the questions to be referred to a neutral expert and the procedure for appointing and utilizing the expert in dispute resolution. Annexure G establishes the rules for establishing a Court of Arbitration under the provisions of Article IX. Annexure H details the arrangements for the Transitional Period (described in Article II) for water distribution, financial provisions and extension of the Transitional Period.


The Indus Water Treaty has been held up as one of the most successful negotiated agreements over water, inspite of the fact that the ‘water wars rationale’ would suggest that India and Pakistan, the riparians who share the Indus waters, would be at high risk for war given the strategic nature of the Indus: a critical water resource in an area with water scarcity depended upon by parties engaged in a wider conflict. [2] [3]

Some analysts believe that the division of the basin is sub-optimal, however others believe that given the political relationship been India and Pakistan, the terms of the basin’s division were the most politically feasilble of options.[ citation needed ] Additionally, while the IWT has provided a means to address water issues between India and Pakistan and has been upheld even during periods when the nations were at war with each other,[3] the two riparians still have not fully been able to address their intra-state water allocations with significant conflicts between provinces within each country.[4]

Financially motivated to reach agreement vs. realization of water rationality

Over US$1000 million was pledged through the Indus Basin Development Fund, with the United States as the largest contributor. These funds were needed to build extensive water infrastructure in Pakistan for water storage and canals for moving water. However, while the financial commitments were helpful in ensuring that infrastructure needs could be met, they may not be the strongest reason for cooperation between India and Pakistan. Reaching agreement could be viewed as “Water Rational.” Alam (2002) defines Water rationality as “an action taken by a state to secure its water supply in the long-term, both in quantity and quality...nationally, a state manages its water prudently, and internationally it maintains relationships with co-riparians that are conducive to ensuring long-term access to the shared water.” He argues that cooperation occurred because “water is scarce, vital, expensive, a security issue, demand is outstripping supply and a war would not guarantee future resources” (both the water and financial resources for infrastructure) and water irrationality as “acts that jeopardize a state’s long-term water security in terms of quantity and quality” (such as unsustainable withdrawals).[2]

Passive sharing of a divided basin vs. mutual dependance viewpoints

While a U.S. Peace Institute report has called the IWT’s division of the Indus an “amputation surgery” with allocation providing near exclusive use of the assigned tributaries to each riparian[5], Zawahri (2009) argues that even with the division of the basin India and Pakistan “remain mutally dependent in managing sharing and developing the Indus River system.” While Pakistan is dependant on the Indus (as it is the primary water source for the country), “India remains dependent on Pakistan” to approve hydropower projects in the Western tributaries.[3] Zawahri argues that the requirements for sharing data and provisions for Indian development of the Western tributaries and the provisions that protect water use rights for the Pakistanis living along the Eastern tributaries constitute an interdependent relationship, rather than a passive sharing of water advocated by some other researchers. Her 2009 Water Policy paper uses examples of how the PIC continued to meet during extended conflicts between the riparians to demonstrate that the capacity of the PIC to assist the states in overcoming obstacles to cooperation on water is linked to the regular meetings and direct communication between the PIC members, and the treaty-granted abilities to monitor projects, access and utilize conflict resolution mechanisms.

Role of an international organization in IWT development

The Indus Waters Treaty has been held up as a noteworthy case in which an international organization acted as a catalyst to get the co-riparians to agree upon a treaty. Biswas (1999) expressed that Eugene Black’s, then president of the World Bank, strong personal interest in resolving the Indus Basin conflict during the decade of negotiations contributed to the success of the negotiation and argues that the Bank’s role in this treaty differed significantly from subsequent negotiations, such as those regarding the Ganges for India and Bangladesh.[4]

Case Studies Related to this Agreement

Articles linked to this Agreement

Riparians Water Features

Agreement includes riparian- India, Pakistan

Includes Water Resource- Indus River

Projects and Initiatives Agreements and Treaties

Associated organizational projects- Permanent Indus Commission

External Links

  • The Indus Waters Treaty - a history (by the Stimson Center) — The Stimson Center is a Washington D.C. based non-profit, nonpartisan institution that produces analyses on topics relating to international peace and security. This short history of the Indus Waters Treaty is written as a general overview for a wide audience.
  1. ^ Product of the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University. Additional information about the TFDD can be found at:
  2. ^ 2.0 2.1 Alam, Undala Z. “Questioning the water wars rationale: a case study of the Indus Waters Treaty” The Geographical Journal, vol 168, no.4 December 2002 p 341-353. Accessed via JSTOR Jan 29 2013
  3. ^ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Zawahri, Neda A. India, Pakistan and cooperation along the Indus River system Water Policy Vol 11 No 1 pp 1–20. doi:10.2166/wp.2009.010 This paper provides examples of cooperation between the riparians via the PIC even during times of war between India and Pakistan. It details historical events and has an extensive list of references that would be quite valuable to someone researching this topic.
  4. ^ 4.0 4.1 Biswas, Asit K. Management of International Waters: Opportunities and Constraints. International Journal of Water Resources Development, Vol. 15, No. 4, 429± 441,1999. Downloaded 13 February 2012.
  5. ^ Mustafa, Daanish. Hydropolitics in Pakistan’s Indus Basin. United States Institute of Peace Special Report no. 261, November 2010. Accessed online from USIP at