By Arun Joshi
The meeting of the Indus Commissioners of India and Pakistan in New Delhi on March 23-24 will be held for the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K state into two union territories – Ladakh and J&K – on August 5, 2019, and this offers an opportunity for India to seek modifications to the existing terms and conditions of the Indus Water Treaty .
India should forcefully put forward its point that since the things have changed on the geographical and political map within the Indian territory which was earlier known as J&K. The new territorial entities have appeared after Ladakh became UT , and the Indus river that flows through it and falls into Pakistan needs a review . The terms need to be changed
An important question that the commissioners would have to grapple with is how the status of the Indus river be determined after the changes that were affected in the aftermath of August 5, 2019. Now, Ladakh is a separate entity and not part of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan had the right to monitor waters of the three western rivers – Indus, Chenab and Jhelum , while India has unrestricted control over three eastern rivers, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej .
The treaty provides for these three rivers, which incidentally happened to be flowing through the erstwhile state of J&K, now divided into two UTs, to supervise the usage of water on the Indian side. But the changed status of the place also requires changes in the Treaty.
There could be an argument that this doesn’t change the status of the river, but what Pakistan has also to explain is the basic contradiction that how could it built a massive Diamer Bhasha of 4800 MWs under construction in Gilgit-Baltistan. Its storage capacity is more than 8-million-acre feet – one of the largest in the world. This can impact the ecological balance of the region and affect the flow and volume of the Indus river as well.
Again, India should focus on the changing needs of the region after it became UT. Ladakh‘s water and energy needs have gone up, and it needs more water to cater to its needs. Ladakh’s energy needs have risen manifold now because it is inviting investment for industry and therefore it needs to build new dams and start afresh the projects that had been hanging in the air for long.
In the changed circumstances , the status of the Indus river that flows into Ladakh from Tibet and gains water from Zanskar and Shyok rivers if the region . India can utilize only 20 per cent of its water and the rest of 80 percent is under the control of Pakistan.
Therefore, it becomes a necessity to redefine the status of the Indus river. It is true that the Treaty cannot be abrogated unilaterally, but the fact is that the major beneficiary of this World Bank brokered Treaty was and is Pakistan. There is no doubt that the IWT has withstood many ups and downs in the Indo-Pak relations, including wars, but that doesn’t mean that Indian interests cannot be taken care of in the changed situation