Rejecting the Pakistani demand for American mediation on its water dispute with India, a top Obama Administration official has said that Islamabad has the option to go to the independent arbitration panel set up for the issue.
“If Pakistan believes that India is violating the Indus Waters Treaty, then Pakistan should avail itself of the opportunity to submit whatever grievances it has to the independent arbitration panel that has been set up by the Indus Waters Treaty,” the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told foreign journalists here yesterday.
“We are not going to get involved in bilateral issues related to water, because I think the World Bank is the best mechanism for that,” Mr. Blake said in response to a question at a news briefing at Foreign Press Center.
Mr. Blake, who was recently in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, said the issue cane up before him at virtually every meeting in Pakistan.
“Both countries have appealed to that panel many times in the past, most recently with respect to the Baglihar Dam. So this is a functioning mechanism that has worked well in the past.
So again if there are serious issues that Pakistan believes need to be addressed, then that is the address to which it should make its claim,” the State Department official said.
“I do believe that if asked, that the United States could help both sides with respect to water supply and again how to make better use of the existing water supply, how to make it more efficient use of it, how to increase water storage, rainwater harvesting, a lot of those kind of techniques.
So that’s where we and other friends of both countries might be able to have a role,” Mr. Blake said.
“It is our view that the real issue is that both India and Pakistan have rapidly expanding populations and rapidly expanding economies. Therefore of course, water use is growing very rapidly in both of these countries,” he said, adding that the real challenge is how to make better use, more efficient use of the water that they now have.
“In Pakistan, there’s a particular urgency to looking at the agricultural sector, which accounts for more than half of water usage.
There are a great many practices that are inefficient, for example, the practice of flood irrigation, that if modified would make a significant difference to the amount of water that is used in Pakistan,” he said.
“So I think that’s the kind of thing that we are working with Pakistan on.
One of the things that we’re doing now in Pakistan, that’s noteworthy is we have a tube-well initiative, where we’re helping to make 10,000 tube wells more efficient by replacing the engines on them.
That’s just one of many,” Mr. Blake said, adding that this is where the real focus should be.