New Delhi, January 28
The first hearing in a dispute between Pakistan and India over the Indus Waters Treaty began at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on Friday.
The hearing began hours after “sources” here said that India had issued notice to Pakistan for modification of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).
India has boycotted the Court of Arbitration and in the notice to Pakistan it has called for meetings to resolve the long-standing dispute within 90 days.
However, Pakistan has opposed the notice with its Attorney General stating that news about New Delhi’s attempt at a unilateral modification of the IWT is misleading.
“Submission of a belated request for the resolution of disputes raised by Pakistan was a demonstration of India's characteristic bad faith. The two countries have been arguing over hydroelectric projects (HEPs) on the shared Indus river and its tributaries for several years.
“The Treaty cannot be unilaterally modified. This is an attempt to divert attention from the ongoing proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the Indus Waters Treaty,” said his office in a statement.
Both countries accuse each other of initiating parallel dispute redressal mechanisms. India says it was forced to issue a notice because Pakistan took unilateral action for examining its objections to India’s HEPs.
In 2015, Pakistan first requested for appointment of a Neutral Expert to examine its technical objections to India’s Kishenganga and Ratle HEPs. In 2016, it unilaterally retracted this request and proposed that a Court of Arbitration (CoA) adjudicate on its objections, said sources here.
Pakistan, on the other hand, said any risk of conflicting outcomes that India apprehends can be arrested through coordination and cooperation between the two fora. Therefore, Pakistan is engaging with both fora.
“It must be noted that the IWT presents two recourses for the settlement of any disputes that may arise regarding the distribution of water. The first is the Court of Arbitration which addresses legal, technical, and systemic issues. The second recourse is a neutral expert that addresses only technical issues. Pakistan requested the establishment of the Court of Arbitration because of systemic questions requiring legal interpretation,” said the statement by its AG.
The dispute is over the Indian plans to construct the 850 MW Ratle HEP on the Chenab and 330 MW Kishenganga hydroelectric project on the Jhelum.
Pakistan admits that it initiated the parallel proceeding by requesting the establishment of the ad hoc CoA after its efforts to hold talks with India via other forums, including government-level talks, “came to nought”. This forced Pakistan to initiate proceedings at the arbitration court.
After six years, the World Bank created the Court of Arbitration, and appointed a neutral expert. Sean Murphy was appointed the chairman of CoA and Michel Lino as the neutral expert on October 17.
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