The Indus Water Treaty conference in Vienna is attended by India and Pakistan
The Indus Water Treaty conference in Vienna is attended by India and Pakistan

In New Delhi: India and Pakistan recently took part in a meeting of the Neutral Expert (NE) proceedings held in Vienna, which was a major move in the continuing Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) issue. The Kishenganga and Ratle hydropower projects, which have been a point of conflict between the two countries, were the main topic of discussion during the summit.

On September 20 and 21, 2023, a team from India, headed by the Secretary of the Department of Water Resources, met at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Vienna to examine the Kishenganga and Ratle issues. Senior Advocate Harish Salve KC headed up India’s legal defence.


In accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty, the Neutral Expert procedures were started at India’s request. At the conference were representatives from both Pakistan and India.

India’s involvement in the Neutral Expert procedures underlines its steadfast position that these processes are the only legal way to handle the present challenges in accordance with the graded system described in the Indus Waters Treaty.

India has opted not to take part in concurrent arbitration proceedings because it views the court as having been improperly established and going against the rules of the IWT.

It is anticipated that the Neutral Expert procedures would take some time to complete. Pakistan is scheduled to submit a response to India’s Memorial by July 29, 2024, outlining the timing and complexity.

The Neutral Expert will then have multiple meetings with both nations and go to the in question hydropower plants. As a consequence, the decision-making process can last until the end of 2024 or perhaps later.

Debatable has been the Court of Arbitration’s (CoA) function in these instances. The CoA, which was started at Pakistan’s request, runs concurrently with the Neutral Expert procedures.

India has chosen not to take part in CoA meetings due to a breach of the Indus Waters Treaty. India vehemently disagrees and argues that the CoA’s establishment is in violation of the treaty’s rules, notwithstanding the CoA’s claim that India’s absence does not affect its capacity to handle Pakistan’s issues.

The distribution of water from the Indus River and its five tributaries is regulated by the Indus Waters Treaty, which was negotiated by the World Bank and signed on September 19, 1960. It creates a Permanent Indus Commission as a bilateral entity to supervise the treaty’s implementation and allots 80% of the water from the six-river Indus water system to Pakistan.

Despite several prior disputes and wars between the two countries, the Indus Waters Treaty has effectively enabled the peaceful sharing of water resources between India and Pakistan for more than 50 years. It continues to be a crucial component of the bilateral relationship, and there are legal channels available to settle disagreements within its framework.

The legitimacy of the treaty has been contested in court since it was signed by the Indian Prime Minister, who is not the president of the Indian Republic. The Tulbul project, a navigation lock-cum-control structure located on the Jhelum River with significant effects for water management in the area, is one of the crucial projects addressed.

China’s participation in changing the Indus River’s flow might have an influence on both India and Pakistan since the river originates in Tibet. Concerns over the river’s future are further heightened by the melting of glaciers on the Tibetan plateau due to climate change.

Any deviation from the terms of the treaty might have a significant impact on agriculture, navigation, and the bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. Additionally, it can cause worry among the nearby nations with whom India has water treaties, further destabilising the area. A pillar of ties between India and Pakistan continues to be the Indus Waters Treaty.



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