Should India actually opt out of Indus Waters Treaty?

With tensions flaring at the Line of Control and within the two countries, it is natural that most Indians are actually hoping that India will opt out of the Indus Waters Treaty, that was signed on September 19, 1960 by the then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani President, Ayub Khan. The treaty, which was negotiated under the auspices of the World Bank, provides India with complete control over the usage of waters of the Eastern rivers (i.e. Ravi, Chenab, and Beas), while giving Pakistan control over the usage of waters of the Western rivers (i.e. Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab). However, since the Indus flows from India, the treaty provides for limited use (equivalent to 20 per cent) of water from Indus to India, which can be used for the purposes of irrigation, power generation and transport. It is also important to note that even though, India and Pakistan have been bitter neighbours, the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty has been observed by both nations.

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Of course, in light of the recent incidents (i.e. the Uri attack and the subsequent surgical strikes across the LOC), many Indians are actually hoping that India will take a tough stand and opt out of the Indus Waters Treaty, which otherwise has remained largely dispute-free. Then again, given that India and Indians are tired of Pakistan’s proxy war and state-sponsored terrorism, such sentiment is not difficult to understand. However, just because tempers are running high in the nation, it makes no sense to kiss our common sense goodbye…just yet

You see…for starters, just as a contract under the Indian Contract Act, a treaty too is a legally binding agreement, which is recognised and given effect under international law. Thus, India cannot choose to unilaterally opt out of the treaty for the simple reason that is legally binding on both parties, ever since its ratification and does not provide for an exit clause to either of the two parties (i.e. India and Pakistan).

Not just for the legal character of the treaty, the more important aspect is that…if India does decide to opt out of the Indus Waters Treaty, it is going to look really bad in international light. In case, you’re wondering how that will truly impact us, truth is…the ramifications actually are going to be quite severe. For, more and more nations tomorrow will be vary of entering into a treaty with India because we would have categorically typecasted ourselves as a nation that cannot be trusted to honour our word and our agreements. Thus, nations will think twice before entering into a military and/or trade treaty with us. It will not only hurt our commercial interests but may in fact, put our entire existence into jeopardy. Given the fact that that is exactly what Pakistan wants anyhow, i.e. India’s destruction…it would be foolhardy on our part to hand them our deaths on a silver plater. Thus, India needs to honour its word and its treaties…for the simple reason that … We Are NOT Pakistan and We Honour Our Words And Our Treaties!

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