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September 14, 2017

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Pakistan’s likely soft stance over water dispute with India to drag issue further

Pakistan’s likely soft stance over water dispute with India to drag issue further

LAHORE: Pakistan’s flexibility to dispute resolution mechanism related to its long-pending conflict with India over Indus hydropower projects is feared to let the deadlock persist for another two or three years, sources said. 

Sources said a Pakistani delegation, which will attend a second round of talks starting on Thursday (today) with its Indian counterparts, may show flexibility in discussing other options, including changes in Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), to resolve water disputes. 

“Now, if the World Bank establishes a special court to determine future line of action about dispute resolution mechanism it would further waste about three years,” said a source privy to the development. “By that time, India would be successful in completing Ratle hydropower project as well.”

India has already completed construction of Kishanganga hydropower project, the source said. Officials, however, said the country is determined to iron out differences after wasting more than a year in negotiating water issues with India.

Pakistani and Indian delegations will discuss the conflict during a two-day meeting (September 14 and 15) in Washington under the aegis of the World Bank. The two neighbouring countries already held secretary-level talks on August 2.     

Pakistan and India disagree over whether or not technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants Kishanganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts), being built on tributaries of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, contravene the IWT.

The Treaty designates two rivers as well as the Indus as the western rivers to which Pakistan has unrestricted use. Under the Treaty, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers subject to constraints specified in the Treaty.

Pakistan first moved case to the World Bank, which is a custodian of the treaty signed in 1960, about formation of court of arbitration for resolving the issue. India, on the other hand, opted to go for appointment of neutral experts to buy time and to delay the whole process, sources said.  “There is no justification in India’s stance as it is ridiculous that a country wants to go for a dispute resolution against itself,” another source said.

Sources said the indecisiveness of Pakistani delegation about dispute resolution mechanism could lead to modification of Indus Waters Treaty. 

“Once Pakistan shows any sign of modifying the treaty, it would be an unending exercise and would potentially hurt the interest of the country,” a source said. Kishanganga and Ratle Hydropower projects may affect flow of water downstream. 

“And, being a lower riparian, Pakistan has the right to submit its case about violation of Indus Waters Treaty,” the source added. 

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