Permanent Indus Commission

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    In Context 

    • A 10-member Indian delegation will visit Pakistan for the annual meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission from March 1-3.
      • Under the Indus Water Treaty, it is mandatory to hold a meeting at least once every year ending March 31

    Image Courtesy: IE

    Agenda for the annual meeting

    • Pakistan’s objections on Indian hydroelectric projects namely Pakal Dul (1,000 MW), Lower Kalnai (48 MW) and Kiru (624 MW) in Chenab basin in Jammu and Kashmir and a few small hydroelectric projects in Ladakh are likely to be on the agenda for discussion.
    • In a first since the signing of the Indus Water Treaty between the two countries, three female officers will also be part of the Indian delegation, which will be advising the Indian Commissioner on various issues during the meeting.

    About Permanent Indus Commission (PIC)

    • The Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was set up under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with the following functions:
    • Both India and Pakistan undertook to establish a permanent post
      • Establish and promote cooperative arrangements for the Treaty implementation.
      • Furnishing or exchange of information or data provided for in the Treaty. 
      • Promote cooperation between the Parties in the development of the waters of the Indus system.
      • Examine and resolve by agreement any question that may arise between the Parties concerning interpretation or implementation of the Treaty.
    • The Commission is required to meet regularly at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan and also when requested by either Commissioner. 
    • The Commission is also required to undertake tours of inspection of the Rivers and Works to ascertain the facts connected with various developments and works on the rivers.

    What is Indus Water Treaty (IWT)?

    • It was signed between then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former Pakistan President Ayub Khan on 19th September 1960.
    • The Treaty was brokered by the World Bank and is one of the most durable agreements between both nations and has survived several wars and disruptions in bilateral relations over the decades.
    • It sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers.
    • Major Provisions: 
      • According to provisions of the Treaty,
        • The water of the eastern rivers (Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi) is allocated to India for unrestricted use.
        • The water of western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) is allocated largely to Pakistan.
    • Under the treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through the run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation. 
      • It is allowed to use 20% water of the western rivers for irrigation, power generation and transport purposes.
    • It also gives Pakistan the right to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.

    Concerns Highlighted

    • Internationally, the Treaty is seen as one of the most successful cases of conflict resolution but between the two countries, it has seeded dissatisfaction and conflicts regarding its interpretation and implementation.
    • The treaty is highly technical leading to far-ranging divergences between the two countries in terms of interpretations.
      • For example, the treaty says that storage systems can be built but to a limited extent. However, the technical details make it difficult to conclude under what circumstances projects can be carried out.
    • Another concern is the tense political relations between the two countries.
      • From the Indian point of view, the basic dissatisfaction is that the treaty prevents it from building any storage systems on the western rivers, even though it allows building storage systems under certain exceptional circumstances.
      • Pakistan, due to its suspicions, stays aware of every technical aspect of the project and deliberately tries to get it suspended.
      • The matter is further aggravated by the fact that the western rivers lie in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir, a subject of a tussle between both since independence.

    Standing Committee on Water Resources 12th report recommendations in this context 

    • The Government of India should renegotiate the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 with Pakistan in the light of present-day challenges such as climate change, global warming and environmental impact assessment.
    • There is a need to establish some kind of institutional structure or legislative framework to address the impact of climate change on water availability in the Indus basin and other challenges which are not covered under the Treaty.
    • It also recommended that the canal systems in Punjab and Rajasthan be repaired to increase their water carrying capacity.

    Way Forward

    • The Indus Waters Treaty is considered one of the most successful water-sharing endeavours in the world today.
    • However, there is a need to update certain technical specifications and expand the scope of the agreement to address climate change

    Source: TH