The talks had been deadlocked following Pakistan’s insistence that India was violating the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty and that it should be allowed access to the project to physically verify that this was not so.
India had been resisting the move until Pakistan made it clear that it would invoke the treaty to appoint neutral observers from other countries to look into the issue.
A few weeks ago, New Delhi had conveyed to Islamabad that though it was ready to discuss all bilateral issues including Kashmir, it was against what it called were unnecessary noises being made over two hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir. India also refused to allow Pakistan to inspect the projects under construction.
The 450 MW Baglihar hydroelectric project is being constructed on the Chenab river in the Doda district in eastern Kashmir, while another project is Kishenganga project in Kupwara district, northwest of the Kashmir valley.
Pakistan earlier this year sent India a notice seeking the appointment of a third-party arbitrator to resolve the dispute over the Baglihar hydropower project. India agreed to discuss the issue bilaterally, but resented the threat of involving a third-party.
Had the dispute been indeed referred to a neutral expert, it would have been for the first time in the history of the treaty that third-party arbitration was agreed.
Indus river water treaty is among
the most successful in the world
For Islamabad, the problem has been with the design of the project. Its main concern is that the gated spillways provided for in the project would give India the capability to manipulate the flow of water to its advantage.
Technical experts believe this structure would allow India to increase its storage capacity while reducing Chenab waters from 8000 to 7000 cusec per day to Pakistan.
India, on the other hand, has always said Pakistan’s fears are unfounded.
The Indus waters treaty was signed between the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and Pakistani President Field Marshal Ayub Khan on 19 September 1960 in Karachi.
It awarded the three eastern rivers Ravi, Sutlej and Beas exclusively to India and the three western rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab exclusively to Pakistan except for limited uses by India in upstream areas in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
The treaty is considered among the most successful models of its kind in the world.
Under the treaty, the construction of storage dams in upstream Jhelum within the Kashmir Valley is not allowed. That is why the hydroelectric projects on the Jhelum have to be run-of-the-river schemes.
Had the dispute been referred to a neutral expert, it would have been for the first time in the history of the treaty that third-party arbitration was sought.
The Kashmir government has, time and again, pleaded with New Delhi either to seek abrogation of the treaty or, at least, compensate it for the losses it suffers due to the pact.
Srinagar wants New Delhi to safeguard economic interests of the state as it had to bear a huge recurring annual loss.
Kashmiri officials insist that the state has been deprived of the opportunity to harness its 15000 MW power generation potential as a consequence of the treaty.
Experts feel that the abrogation of the treaty will hit Pakistan’s agricultural production. Also, some of the country’s hydroelectric projects including one set up at Mangla with the help of United States engineers in the 60s will be hard hit.