ISLAMABAD, May 7: Pakistan is putting India on notice on the violation of Indus Waters Treaty and has said the two countries should appoint a neutral expert within 15 days to resolve the dispute over the construction of Baglihar Hydropower Project on the Chenab river in occupied Kashmir.
Water and Power Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao confirmed on Wednesday that Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali had approved of the summary to issue a notice to India.
“The notice would be sent to India tomorrow (Thursday),” said Water and Power Secretary Riaz Ahmad Khan, adding that the two sides were bound under the 1960 treaty to meet and appoint a neutral expert within 15 days.
Asked why Pakistan was extending a hand of friendship to India when Delhi was trying to deprive Islamabad of its rights over Chenab and Jhelum waters, the minister said Pakistan, too, was initiating a project on Jhelum river in Azad Kashmir. However, he added, funds had not been arranged for the project so for.
India and Pakistan are in a serious dispute for more than four years now over the 450MW Baglihar project which Islamabad believes is being constructed in violation of the treaty.
Bilateral means of resolving the issue at the level of Permanent Indus Commission have exhausted and India is going with the construction of the controversial gate-structure which could deprive Pakistan of more than 7,000 cusecs water per day.
Sources said Pakistan wanted to appoint a World Bank official as neutral expert as the bank itself was the guarantor of the treaty. The World Bank had facilitated the two sides to sign the treaty in 1960 to resolve their water disputes.
The summary approved by the prime minister also assigns various responsibilities to relevant ministries and organizations.
The finance ministry will arrange for the required funding of more than $1 million, the Attorney-General of Pakistan has finalized a panel of lawyers while NESPAK and Wapda are preparing technical and engineering reports.
In February, the Indian Commissioner for Indus Commission refused to allow a Pakistani team to visit occupied Kashmir for physical verification of the project and insisted to continue with the gate-structure.
Pakistan was left with no other option but to invoke Article IX(2)(a) of the treaty for the appointment of a neutral expert to protect its rights.
This would be first time since the treaty was inked 43 years ago that a dispute is likely to be referred to the neutral expert. The treaty brokered and guaranteed by the World Bank even survived 1965 and 1971 wars.
Officials believe India is trying to complete the project by 2004 through dilly-dallying tactics to deprive Pakistan of a river that belongs to Pakistan under the treaty.
Under the treaty Pakistan has exclusive rights over waters of western rivers — Jhelum, Chenab and Indus — while eastern rivers — Ravi, Beas and Sutlej — belong to India.
The article IX(2)(a) further states if the neutral expert reaches the conclusion that there is a dispute then a court of arbitration shall be set up upon agreement between the two parties to do so, or at the request of either party if that party feels that the dispute is unlikely to be resolved by negotiations or mediation, or if it feels after one month that the other party is unduly delaying negotiations.