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.