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Water Dispute

Water Dispute

The Indus basin water dispute had its basis in the partition of Punjab. It occurred on April 1, 1948, when East Punjab in India discontinued the flow of cannel waters to West Punjab that became a huge threat of dearth and loss of crops in West Punjab. West Punjab is a productive land but a hot and dry climate. There is insufficient rainfall and unreliable. The main resource of Pakistan’s economy is based on agriculture which is dependent upon irrigation by canals delivered from the Indus River and its five tributaries. The three western rivers the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab enter into Pakistan from the state of Jammu and Kashmir and three Eastern rivers the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej flow into Pakistan from India. In fact, Indus river system is source of life in West Punjab that provides water for more than 26 million acres. Pakistan’s agriculture is dependent upon these waters. On the other hand, India has a lot of rivers system which fall into sea without any hindrance and rainfall is also enough to support agriculture without irrigation.


Partition changed the whole structure of subcontinent and created a number of problems and issues over the water of Indus Basin. In 1947, Pakistan came into being and province of Punjab was divided into two parts between India and Pakistan. The immediate result of partition was the Indus Basin division and conflict arose between both countries. Moreover, the head works at Madhupur on Ravi and at Ferozpur on the Sutlej were in India but many of the canals taken off from them were irrigating the agricultural land of the Punjab. Pakistan felt that it was extremely dangerous for its economy because India can stop water at any time, and its agriculture can be affected.


In order to overcome the economic problems Pakistan purchased water from India. Many official committees were made to deal with the problems arising out of the division of the Punjab. The question of sharing the water between India and Pakistan referred to committee B. the committee was agreed that there was no question of changing the authorized shares of water to which the two zones and the various canals are allowed. Therefore, this question was not referred to arbitral tribunal selected to settle the dispute between India and Pakistan arising of the partition. The life of the tribunal ended on March 31, 1948. After India took control of the head works and it stopped water from flowing in every canal entering Pakistan. So Pakistan could not complaint to committee. Pakistan was much worried about the situation. The people of Pakistan criticized this act and it got international concentration. A delegation was send to New Delhi for negotiation on water dispute by Pakistan. Through inter dominion conference which held in New Delhi on May, 1948, a new agreement was signed called the Delhi agreement on May 4, 1948. According to that agreement East and West Punjab recognized their requirement to solve the problem through support and alliance. Inter dominion conference resolve many of the issues and Pakistan planned that the issue be submitted to international level, the court of justice or UN Security council. In dispute settlement, India refused to involve any third world country, also said that inter dominion agreement should be made everlasting. Now the David Lilienthal, former chairman of the Tennessee valley visited the basin area, urged the World Bank to demonstrate its interest in conflict between India and Pakistan. Although India criticized the involvement of World Bank but continued his negotiation with reservations and after eight months treaty was signed on Sep 19, 1960 known as Indus Basin Water Treaty. Pakistan was represented by president Ayub khan while Prime Minister Pundit Jawahir Lal Nehru represented India. According to that agreement Pakistan received exclusive rights of the three western rivers the Jhelum, the Chenab and the Indus while India got three eastern rivers the Beas, the Sutlej and the Ravi. In order to utilize the water of these rivers, two Dams, five barrages and seven canals would be built. Apart of cost was to be paid by India and remaining amount was to be met by Pakistan. This treaty considered as “well worked out” treaty and the both countries interpreted it in a different way.


To conclude, this intention of India was not always in favor of Pakistan and they always tried to exploit Pakistan and destruct its economy by various instruments and the water dispute was also a part of it. It was also result of Pakistan’s intimidation that since the supply rivers of the Indus Basin were in India. Through this treaty, Pakistan overcame its problems of irrigation to a large extent. Moreover, the foreign policy of Pakistan was also affected and we have to stable our relations with third world countries due to repercussions by India.

About Ali Tariq

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