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India suspends talks on Indus water pact (Relevant for GS Prelims and Mains Paper II)

Suspension of talks under Indus Water treaty 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting of senior officials from the Water Resources and External Affairs Ministries and the PMO to discuss the government’s options on the India-Pakistan Indus Waters Treaty in the wake of the Uri attack. 

While the meeting decided to suspend further water talks and increase the utilization of rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir to maximize India’s share, there was no decision on either reviewing or abrogating the 1960 treaty.

The government decided to suspend talks on the Permanent Indus Commission, the dispute redressal mechanism that has met 112 times.

Reason behind the assertive move of suspending talks on Indus Treaty
In the wake of the Uri attack in which 18 soldiers were killed at an army base close to the LoC by suspected Pakistani militants, several experts have demanded that India withdraw from the Indus Waters Treaty whose terms are considered generous to Pakistan.

Procedure of regulating the provisions of Indus Treaty
According to Article VIII of the Indus Waters Treaty, the Commission must meet once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan. The last meeting was held in July 2016.

Can the treaty be revised or modified?
There is a provision for mediation and arbitration by a neutral umpire in case of any disagreement. The IWT has, so far, been implemented by both the countries faithfully. It has not gone for any modification till date, even though Article-XII of the IWT allows for any kind of modification when both parties agree. The current tensions between the two sides might, however, lead to a flashpoint.

Setting up of Inter-Ministerial Committee to study options with India
The Union government has decided to set up an inter-ministerial committee to study India’s further options on the Indus Waters Treaty.

1. Among the committee’s tasks would be to look at storage possibilities that would help irrigate fields in Jammu and Kashmir, where the State Assembly has often complained about the treaty being “unfair”.

2. The government also decided to build more run-of-the-river hydropower projects on western rivers, to exploit the full potential of 18,600 MW (current projects come to 11,406 MW) and to expedite construction of the Pakal Dul, Sawalkot and Bursar dams in J&K.

3. A decision was taken to review restarting the Tulbul navigation project that India had suspended after Pakistan’s objections in 1987.

What is Tulbul Project?
Location: On Jhelum River in Jammu and Kashmir

Terminology: India calls it the Tulbul Navigation Project. For Pakistan it is Wullar Barrage.

The Dispute: India proposed to build the barrage in 1984 on the River Jhelum, at the mouth of Wullar Lake, India's largest fresh water lake, near Sopore town in Kashmir Valley.

Pakistan protested claiming it was a violation of 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. India claims the barrage would make the river navigable in summer, but Pakistan believes it could be used by India to control the flow of the river and can be used as a geo-strategic weapon.

The barrage also has the potential to disrupt the triple canal project of Pakistan-Upper Jhelum Canal, Upper Chenab Canal and the Lower Bari Doab Canal.

Events: Pakistan took the case to Indus Waters Commission in 1986, a year later it admitted its failure to resolve the issue. Before Pakistan moved International Arbitral Court, India stopped construction.
Eight rounds of talks have been held till now. The ninth round is being held from July 29, 2004.

 



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