1. World shocked by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine
Eight killed, nine wounded, says Ukraine official
Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since the Second World War and confirmation of the worst fears of the West.
Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities, much to the shock of international community. Ukraine reported columns of troops pouring across its borders into the eastern Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions, and landing by sea at the cities of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.
Explosions could be heard before dawn in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Gunfire rattled out near the main airport.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin’s aim was to destroy his state. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter: “This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin.”
At least eight people had been killed and nine were wounded by the Russian shelling, an adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs said.
Mr. Putin declared in a televised address that he had ordered “a special military operation” to protect people, including Russian citizens who had been subjected to “genocide” in Ukraine, an accusation the West has long described as absurd propaganda. “And for this we will strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine,” Mr. Putin said.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said its military destroyed 83 Ukrainian land-based targets and achieved all its goals in Ukraine for Thursday, the Interfax news agency said.
The tensions between Russia and Ukraine go years back. However, tensions escalated in 2021 when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged US President Joe Biden to let Ukraine join NATO.
Ukraine is a democratic country of 44 million people, with over 1,000 years of history. It also happens to be the biggest country in Europe by area after Russia.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, it voted for independence from Moscow. Putin deems Ukraine as an artificial creation carved from Russia by enemies. He has also described Ukraine as a puppet of the West.
Zelensky’s request to be a part of NATO angered Russia and it started placing troops near the Ukraine border.
On November 10, 2021, the US reported unusual Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border. On November 28, Ukraine said Russia is massing nearly 92,000 troops for an offensive at the end of January or early February.
However, Moscow denied it and accused Kyiv of a military build-up of its own.
In December, President Biden warned of severe sanctions if Russia invaded Ukraine. Putin has constantly demanded guarantees from the West and Ukraine that it will not join NATO.
This is not the first time that tensions have mounted between Russia and Ukraine. Russia had invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed its Crimean peninsula. Rebels backed by President Putin seized large swathes of eastern Ukraine and fought the army. The attack came in when its pro-Russian president was deposed. The war has claimed over 14,000 lives since then.
What does Ukraine want?
A 2001 poll suggests that nearly half of Ukrainians supported the country’s exit from the Soviet Union. Now, over 80 per cent of people support Ukraine’s independence.
As Russia continued to launch missiles, Ukraine’s military claimed at least “50 Russian occupiers” were killed. “Shchastya is under control. 50 Russian occupiers were killed. Another Russian plane was destroyed in the Kramatorsk district. This is the sixth,” Ukraine’s military said.
The border guards further claimed that Russian forces were launching attacks with rockets and helicopters from several directions.
Ukraine’s Major General Valeriy Zaluzhny said President Zelensky had ordered its forces to “inflict maximum losses against the aggressor”.
2. The Russian Aggression on Ukraine and International Law
What principles of International law are Russia breaking by its actions in eastern Ukraine?
Yesterday, Russia launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine. The Russian actions have been widely condemned and raise several questions concerning violation of international law.
The principle of non-intervention is enshrined in article 2(4) of the UN Charter. It requires states to refrain from using force or threat of using force against territorial integrity or political independence of any state. The Russian attack on Ukraine is violative of this principle, and amounts to aggression under international law. Russia’s desire to keep Ukraine out of NATO is a prime reason for its use of force against Ukraine.
Russia has claimed it is acting in self-defence as Ukraine could acquire nuclear weapons with the help of its western allies. However, the International Court of Justice in the Legality of Threat of Nuclear Weapons case held that mere possession of nuclear weapons does not constitute a threat. Further, mere membership in a defence alliance like NATO can also not be considered a threat of aggression.
The story so far: The annexation of Crimea in 2014 by Russia, following the removal of Victor Yanukovych as the President, was the first major military flare-up in the Russo-Ukrainian relations. The Crimean annexation by Russia was met with imposition of sanctions. However, Russia is still in occupation of Crimea, and post 2014 its activities have centred around fomenting separatists in eastern Ukraine. In January 2021, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed the U.S. to let it join NATO, following which Russia started amassing troops near the borders of eastern Ukraine. Tensions escalated quickly from December 2021 when Russia demanded NATO to give up its military activities in eastern Europe and Ukraine, followed by a Russian cyberattack on the Ukrainian government website. On 22 February, Russia recognised the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk republics in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, and sent Russian troops to these territories. Finally, yesterday Russia launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine. The Russian actions have been condemned widely and raise several questions concerning violation of international law.
How is Russia violating the UN Charter?
The principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs is the foundational principle on which existing international order is based. The principle is enshrined in article 2(4) of the UN Charter requiring states to refrain from using force or threat of using force against territorial integrity or political independence of any state. It prohibits any kind of forcible trespassing in the territory of another state, even if it is for temporary or limited operations such as an ‘in and out’ operation. The Russian attack on Ukraine is violative of the non-intervention principle, and amounts to aggression under international law.
The UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (1974) defines aggression as the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state. Additionally, allowing one’s territory to be used by another state for aggression against a third state, also qualifies as an act of aggression. Accordingly, Belarus can also be held responsible for aggression as it has allowed its territory to be used by Russia for attacking Ukraine. Aggression is also considered an international crime under customary international law and the Rome statute establishing the International Criminal Court.
Russia’s desire to keep Ukraine out of NATO is a prime reason for its use of force against Ukraine. This is violative of Ukraine’s political independence under article 2(4) as Ukraine being a sovereign state is free to decide which organisations it wants to join. Also, by resorting to use of force, Russia has violated article 2(3) which requires the states to settle their dispute by peaceful means in order to preserve international peace and security.
What about the principle of self-defence?
In face of the use of force by Russia, Ukraine has the right to self-defence under international law. The UN Charter under article 51 authorises a state to resort to individual or collective self-defence, until the Security Council take steps to ensure international peace and security. In this case, it seems implausible for the UNSC to arrive at a decision as Russia is a permanent member and has veto power. However, Ukraine has a right under international law to request assistance from other states in form of military assistance, supply of weapons etc.
On the other hand, Russia has also claimed that it is acting in self-defence. This claim is questionable, as there has been no use of force, or such threats against Russia by Ukraine. It has been claimed by Russia that Ukraine may acquire nuclear weapons with the help of western allies. However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Legality of Threat of Nuclear Weapons case held that mere possession of nuclear weapons does not necessarily constitute a threat.
Thus, even if Ukraine has, or were to acquire nuclear weapons in the future, it does not become a ground for invoking self defence by Russia. Further, mere membership in a defence alliance such as NATO cannot necessarily be considered as a threat of aggression against Russia. Thus, here too Russia cannot invoke self-defence.
Russia can also not invoke anticipatory self defence as such invocation according to the Caroline test would require that the necessity of self defence was instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation. However, this is not the case with Russia.
3. Understanding the Indus Waters Treaty
What is the river water-sharing treaty between India and Pakistan and why are delegations from both countries set to meet in March?
A delegation from India will visit Pakistan on February 28, to attend the 117th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission, from March 1 to March 3.
Since both India and Pakistan were dependent on water from the Indus river basin for their irrigation, equitable distribution and infrastructure was needed. In 1951, the World Bank offered to mediate the water-sharing dispute. Finally in 1960, an agreement was reached between the two countries, leading to the signing of the IWT.
The Indus Water Treaty has been brought up several times during geo-political tensions. In the aftermath of the attack on J&K’s Uri army camp in 2016, Mr. Modi had said, “Blood and water cannot flow simultaneously,” Again in 2019, when the suicide attack was carried out in Pulwama, India threatened to cut off water supply to Pakistan from the Indus River System.
The story so far: A 10-member delegation from India will visit Pakistan on February 28, to attend the 117th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission, from March 1 to 3. The Indian Commissioner of Indus Waters, Pradeep Saxena, will lead the delegation visiting Islamabad, while the Pakistan side will be led by its Commissioner, Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah.
In the upcoming session, Pakistan is likely to bring up its objections to three Indian Hydropower projects in the Chenab basin in Jammu and Kashmir — the 1000 Megawatt (MW) Pakal Dul project, the 48 MW Lower Kalnai project and the 624 MW Kiru project, aside from other smaller Hydropower units of India in Ladakh. India has already said that all the projects are in full compliance with the Indus Waters treaty.
What is the Indus Waters Treaty?
The Indus river basin has six rivers — Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej; originating from Tibet and flowing through the Himalayan ranges to enter Pakistan, ending in the south of Karachi.
In 1947, the line of partition, aside from delineating geographical boundaries for India and Pakistan, also cut the Indus river system into two. Both the sides were dependent on water from the Indus river basin for their irrigation. Therefore, infrastructure and equitable distribution was needed. Initially, the Inter-dominion accord of May, 1948 was adopted, under which India would supply water to Pakistan in exchange for an annual payment. This agreement, however, soon disintegrated as both the countries could not agree upon common interpretations.
In 1951, in the backdrop of the water-sharing dispute, both the countries applied to the World Bank for funding of their respective irrigation projects on Indus and its tributaries, which is when the Bank offered to mediate the conflict. Finally in 1960, after nearly a decade of negotiations, an agreement was reached between the two countries, leading to the signing of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan. The former Vice President of the World Bank, W.A.B. Iliff, also signed the document.
What are some of its key provisions?
The treaty allocated the three western rivers— Indus, Chenab and Jhelum—to Pakistan for unrestricted use, barring certain non-consumptive, agricultural and domestic uses by India and the three Eastern rivers— Ravi, Beas and Sutlej — to India for unrestricted usage. This means that 80% of the share of water or about 135 Million Acre Feet (MAF) went to Pakistan, leaving the rest 33 MAF or 20% of water for use by India. Besides, India is also allowed a minimum storage level on the western rivers— it can store up to 3.75 MAF for conservation and flood storage purposes.
It also required both the countries to establish a Permanent Indus Commission constituted by permanent commissioners on both sides. The functions of the commission include serving as a forum for exchange of information on the rivers, for continued cooperation and as a first stop for resolution of conflicts.
While Pakistan has rights over the waters of Jhelum, Chenab and Indus, Annexure D of the treaty allows India to build ‘run of the river’ hydropower projects, meaning projects not requiring live storage of water. It also provides certain design specifications which India has to follow for such projects.
The treaty also allows Pakistan to raise objections over such projects being built by India, if it does not find them to be compliant with the specifications. India has to share information on the project design with Pakistan, which is required to respond with objections, if any, within three months.
The IWT also provides a three step dispute resolution mechanism, under which issues can first be resolved at the commission or inter-Government level. If that fails, either side can approach the World Bank to appoint a Neutral Expert (NE). And eventually, if either party is still not satisfied, matters can be referred to a Court of Arbitration.
What have been the past objections raised under the treaty?
While the treaty has been regarded internationally as a successful diplomatic effort, managing to withstand three wars and multiple military impasses between the two countries, the journey has been rocky.
The treaty, according to observers, became a source of dissatisfaction between the two countries with growing demand for water, the extensively technical nature of the document and the fact that the western rivers flow through the conflicted region of Jammu and Kashmir.
One of the longest conflicts that arose from Pakistan’s objections to Indian projects was over the Kishanganga Hydro Electricity Project (KHEP). Kishanganga is a tributary of the Jhelum river. The work for KHEP was started in 2007, proposing to build a dam on the Kishanganga, diverting its water for a 330 MW hydropower plant in Kashmir’s Bandipora. The work for the project was supposed to be completed by 2016, but before the construction started, Pakistan raised objections regarding the height of the dam, fearing it would mean increased water storage for India. Consequently, India agreed to lower its height from 97 metres to 37 metres. In 2010, Pakistan took the matter to the International Court of Arbitration, this time, objecting to the diversion of water from Kishanganga. The Court gave its final ruling in December 2013, giving India a green signal for the project, subject to conditions. The conflict however, did not end here, with Pakistan approaching the World Bank three years later in 2016 and again in 2018, objecting to the design. It also tried to stop the construction of the dam in 2016 by firing shells near the dam site . The project was then inaugurated in 2018, despite continued protests from Pakistan.
Before that, Pakistan had objected to the Salal dam project in 1970 over design concerns, negotiations for which ended in 1978. This was followed by the neighbouring country’s opposition to the Baglihar Hydropower project in the 2000s, which involved the construction of a 150m tall dam on Chenab. The matter was eventually referred to a Neutral Expert who upheld some of Pakistan’s objections while denying others.
What about geopolitical conflicts?
In recent years, the Indus Water Treaty has been brought up a couple of times during geo-political tensions between India and Pakistan. In the aftermath of the attack on J&K’s Uri army camp in 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, “Blood and water cannot flow simultaneously,” soon after which, the Permanent Indus Commission talks were suspended for that year by the Indian side, which also at one point threatened to walk out of the treaty. Again in 2019, when the suicide attack was carried out in Pulwama, killing 40 CRPF personnel, India had for the first time threatened to cut off water supply to Pakistan from the Indus River System, which would essentially mean walking out of the treaty. The IWT does not have a unilateral exit provision, and is supposed to remain in force unless both the countries ratify another mutually agreed pact.