Talking out the water dispute

Published: August 29, 2018

In what comes up as the first official engagement of the Imran Khan-led Pakistan government with India, Lahore is hosting a nine-member delegation from New Delhi for two-day talks on the contentious water issues, from today. During the Pakistan-India Permanent Indus Commission talks, Pakistan is all set to reiterate its objections to the design of two water storage and hydropower projects — 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnai — being built by India. Pakistan believes that the projects are in violation of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 and wants India to modify them in compliance with the treaty. India, on the other hand, finds the projects well within the domain of the treaty.

The Indus Water Treaty — signed by Pakistan and India in 1960 after nine years of consultations mediated by the World Bank — divides the waters of the Indus river system between the two hostile neighbours. Under the Indus treaty, waters of the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — had been allocated to India and waters of the western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — to Pakistan. The treaty has survived years of tensions between the two archrivals, including two wars and countless military standoffs. However, several recent steps by India pose a threat to the treaty that is widely regarded as an extremely successful agreement.

In March 2017, India had promised to modify the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects. To the contrary, it started constructing the two projects without addressing Pakistan’s reservations — as well as a third one, the 850MW Ratle dam — on the River Chenab to redirect water away from Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself laid the foundation stone of Pakal Dul project in May this year, targeted to be completed within 66 months. Baglihar and Kishanganga are two more examples of projects built by India in violation of the 1960 treaty. Pakistan can no more afford to slumber on the vital water issue and needs to act tough. India’s confrontational stance must, alongside, be tackled by energising the arbitration mechanisms existing within the 1960 treaty.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2018.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • RealtyCheck
    Aug 29, 2018 - 11:18AM

    In other words, you are forcing India to scrap the Treaty altogether. As a sovereign nation, India can announce scrapping of the Treaty in hours, while their team is still in Lahore. Thank you for the effort. Recommend

  • GKA
    Aug 29, 2018 - 12:28PM

    False and irresponsible reporting – India did not “promise to modify the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects”. No such promise was made, nor was it captured in any minutes of meeting. I challenge tribune to publish such minutes or get a formal clarification from Pakistan’s own officers whether this is in the minutes. Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Aug 29, 2018 - 11:35PM

    As ET editors well know, those Indian “Run of the river” Hydro-Electric projects are well within the Indus water treaty terms!
    Another “for local consumption only” article based on nothing!Recommend

  • powayman
    Aug 30, 2018 - 12:03AM

    Pakistan can no more afford to slumber on the vital water issue and needs to act tough
    Exactly what does “acting tough” mean? Why does the Editor imply that escalating confrontation with India somehow results in Pakistan getting more water? Chest thumping seldom works and even that requires sufficient leverage to influence the outcome – leverage that is lacking in this case. Recommend

  • RealtyCheck
    Aug 30, 2018 - 1:00PM

    India, because of the nusance created by the Pakistsani tantrums will very soon abrogate the IWT. That will be the ultimate fate. Good bye.Recommend

  • RealtyCheck
    Aug 31, 2018 - 10:43AM

    “energising the arbitration mechanisms”. May I know what exactly is meant by that?? This attitude will result in the scrapping of the IWT very soon. That probably will solve all the problems. Recommend

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