ISLAMABAD: Having confirmed that India has completed the controversial Kishanganga hydropower project, Pakistan has asked the World Bank to recognise its responsibility under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 to address its concerns over two disputed projects.
A government official told Dawn that power division of the energy ministry sent a fresh communiqué early this week to the bank’s vice president urging the international organisation to “recognise its responsibility” and play its role to ensure that India abided by the provisions of the 1960 treaty while building the projects.
The official said there was no doubt that India had completed the 330MW Kishanganga project during the period the World Bank “paused” the process for constitution of a Court of Arbitration (COA) as requested by Pakistan in early 2016. The Pakistani request was countered by India by calling for a neutral expert.
Pakistan had called for resolution of disputes over Kishanganga project on the Neelum river and 850MW Ratle hydropower project on the Chenab.
The official said the letter had reached the bank’s head office in Washington and had been delivered to its vice president concerned as confirmed by Pakistan’s director to the bank.
When asked what the government expected now that India had completed the Kishanganga project, the official said the authorities could not just sit back and had to take the matter to its logical conclusion.
Islamabad had received reports in August of 2017 that New Delhi had completed the Kishanganga project as per the design that had been objected to by the former.
The new letter was sent to the World Bank after a Pakistani delegation of the Indus Waters Commission was not allowed to visit various controversial projects in India, including Kishanganga and Ratle schemes.
In December 2016, the bank had announced that it had “paused” the process for either appointing a COA or a neutral expert and started mediation between the two countries on how to advance and develop consensus in the light of the treaty on the mechanism for resolution of faulty designs of the two projects.
Since then the bank has arranged two rounds of talks between the two sides but the Indians kept on building the project. On completion of the scheme, Pakistan proposed some modifications to partially address its concerns over the Kishanganga project’s design for water storage without affecting its power generation capacity, but in vain.
The last round of bank-facilitated and secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan were held in Washington in September that ended in disappointment for the latter. In view of the inability of the parties to agree on whether a COA or a neutral expert is the way forward, the World Bank is reported to have called another round of discussions to minimise the differences but failed to bring New Delhi to the negotiating table.
Pakistan had raised a number of objections over the design of the two projects at the level of Permanent Indus Waters Commission almost eight years ago followed by secretary-level talks and then requests for arbitration through the World Bank.
Under the treaty, in case the parties fail to resolve disputes through bilateral means the aggrieved party has the option to invoke the jurisdiction of the International Court of Arbitration or the neutral expert under the auspices of the World Bank. The jurisdiction of the court could be invoked either jointly by the two parties or by any party as envisaged under Article IX (5), (b) or (c) of the treaty for constitution of a seven-member arbitration panel.
Pakistan’s experience with both the international forums — neutral expert and CoA — has not been satisfactory for varying reasons and outcomes, partially due to domestic weaknesses including delayed decision-making.
Pakistan first challenged the Baglihar hydroelectric project before the neutral expert and then the Kishanganga and Wuller Barrage projects before the CoA.
Islamabad has been under criticism at home for losing its rights through legal battles instead of building diplomatic pressure in world capitals to stop India from carrying out “water aggression”. Pakistan felt its water rights were being violated by India on two rivers, the Chenab and Jhelum, through faulty designs of Ratle and Kishanganga projects, respectively.
An official said the government had originally decided to take up the matter at the international forums provided for in the 1960 treaty back in December 2015 but the process was delayed for unknown reasons.
Pakistan believed that Kishanganga’s pondage should be a maximum of one million cubic metres instead of 7.5 million cubic metres, intake should be up to four metres and spillways should be raised to nine metres.
About the Ratle project, Pakistan had four objections. Freeboard should be one metre instead of two metres, pondage should be a maximum of eight million cubic metres instead of 24 million, intake level should be at 8.8 metres and spillways at the height of 20 metres.
It believes the Indian design of Ratle project would reduce Chenab flows by 40 per cent at Head Marala and cause considerable irrigation loss to crops. The Ratle dam is believed to be three times larger than the Baglihar dam.
Under the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty, the waters of the eastern rivers — the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — had been allocated to India and that of the western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — to Pakistan except for certain non-consumptive uses.