Confrontations Over Riparian Issues

Amit Ranjan

Daniel Haines
Penguin, Delhi, Year 2017, pp.264, Rs.599


After the attack on an Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri sector on 18 September 2016 by the militants in which twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives, the Government of India gave a call to scrap the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960 between India and Pakistan. This created ripples in both countries. For Pakistan the Indus River System (IRS) is a lifeline and without water from the rivers constituting the system, the country would lose its existence. In India many welcomed this decision while some questioned its rationality. After a few days the Government of India toned down its position. While India and Pakistan were exchanging words over the IWT, the World Bank tried to mediate to calm down the situation, especially on the issue of the Kishan Ganga project over which the Court of Arbitration is yet to deliver its final decision. But soon, under India’s diplomatic pressure, the World Bank changed its position and in a communiqué said that the two riparian countries should try to resolve their water related disputes bilaterally. It is not the first time that India and Pakistan have been in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation situation over the IWT, and demands to scrap the treaty has been made by one group or another from the respective countries. But every time, like this one, no action has been taken to scrap or re-visit the IWT. Politically, to gain attention from their constituency leaderships do make such statements which is, practically and legally, difficult to implement. There is no exit clause in the treaty. Many commentators mentioned Article 62 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which has a provision to make an exit, but there is also Article 63 of the same which says: ‘The severance of diplomatic or consular relations between parties to a treaty does not affect the legal relations between them by the treaty except in so far as the existence of diplomatic or consular relations is indispensable for the application of the treaty’ (Cited in Noorani 2016). This means even severance of diplomatic relations between the countries cannot affect the treaty between the countries. Even, going against the settled international norms, if India makes an exit from the IWT, it is practically difficult to build an infrastructure to utilize the entire quantity of the IRS waters in its sovereign catchment area. In his book Daniel Haines has comprehensively dealt with ...

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