Pakistan to take river dispute back to court

In a move that will ratchet up tensions, Pakistan has decided to return to an international tribunal to settle a dispute with India over sharing waters of the Kishenganga and Ratle rivers.

Pakistan had initiated international proceedings on sharing Kishenganga’s water but lost the case in 2013 when the International Court of Arbitration “recognised” India’s rights over the river.

Pakistan’s latest decision to go to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), The Hague, was made public after talks between officials of both sides in Delhi failed to make progress.

“Visit of a team, led by Water and Power Secretary of Pakistan to New Delhi on July 14-15, was in response to India pointing out to Pakistan that the latter was violating provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty in rushing to a third forum without attempting to avail Treaty provisions for amicably resolving matters of mutual concern pertaining to two hydro-electric power projects on Kishenganga and Ratle,” the official spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the media.

Pakistan’s decision to move the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the case is expected to erode the established mechanism of solving disputes on river water sharing which has served both sides successfully under the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960.

India’s response came a day after Pakistan’s Minister of Defence, Water and Power, Khawaja M. Asif announced on Twitter that two and half years of negotiation on Kishenganga and Ratle projects have failed. “Pakistan with the consent of stakeholders has decided to take it to the full court of arbitration,” Mr. Asif said.

Pakistan’s previous attempt at the PCA had backfired as the PCA had given a verdict defending India’s right to divert water of Kishenganga. The PCA had also quashed Pakistan’s argument that India’s hydro electricity power plans on the Kishenganga reduced flow of water for Neelum Jhelum Hydro Electricity Project (NJHEP).

New Strategy

However experts in Pakistan are pointing out that unlike the previous arbitration at the PCA which lasted from 2010-2013, Pakistan will this time around take up the issue of “design” of the Kishenganga and Ratle river projects in Kashmir.

“We intend to emphasise the design aspect of the dams which may reduce flow of waters in the lower riparian region of Pakistan,” said Najam Rafique of Islamabad’s Institute of Strategic Studies. Dr. Rafique said that Pakistan would also highlight that the previous decision of the PCA had stated that India’s right over these rivers was not “absolute” as India also has to ensure minimum flow of waters into the Pakistani part of the rivers. “Under the previous judgment India is supposed to maintain a flow of water which would be sufficient for Pakistan,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 9:18:14 AM |

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