Pakistan alarmed at Indian attitude over water treaty

Updated August 20, 2019

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Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda pointed out in a statement that India was obligated under the treaty to provide information about extraordinary flood to Pakistan but had been failing to deliver on the treaty obligation despite repeated requests and reminders. — DawnNewsTV/File
Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda pointed out in a statement that India was obligated under the treaty to provide information about extraordinary flood to Pakistan but had been failing to deliver on the treaty obligation despite repeated requests and reminders. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Expressing “deep concern” over Indian attitude towards implementation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, Pakistan on Monday said it would exercise all options to protect its rights given in the treaty.

Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda pointed out in a statement that India was obligated under the treaty to provide information about extraordinary flood to Pakistan but had been failing to deliver on the treaty obligation despite repeated requests and reminders.

He said Pakistan’s commissioner for Indus waters, who was the regular channel of communication with India under the treaty, had conveyed serious concerns to his Indian counterpart for not honouring the international commitments.

Read: Flood alert issued for River Sutlej, Indus after India releases water 'without preschedule

Mr Vawda said the 1960 treaty was an instrument of peace between Pakistan and India and in the region, but if India did not fulfil its obligations, “the treaty provides for a complete mechanism to get justice for Pakistan”. He said the Pakistan government was vigilant and would exercise all options given in the treaty. Under Article XII, neither India nor Pakistan could unilaterally abrogate the treaty unless there was a modified and duly ratified treaty in place between the two countries, he explained.

Minister says under the accord New Delhi is obligated to provide information about extraordinary flood

Pakistan’s Permanent Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Mehr Ali Shah told Dawn that he was constantly conveying serious concern to his Indian counterpart over the matters hampering smooth implementation of the treaty. He alleged that India was reneging on about four key commitments relating to annual exchange of flood-related information, overdue visit to the Kishanganga hydroelectric project since 2014, fewer annual meetings and New Delhi’s reluctance to provide data on new projects.

Mr Shah said that as Pakistan’s first communication link with India on water issues he was putting on record repeated letters on the four subjects before moving on to the next level.

Under the treaty, India is required to provide data in case of ‘extraordinary flood’ that it had been doing till 1988 floods. Because of the devastations cause by floods, the two sides signed an agreement in 1989 under which India has been providing advance flow data of Ravi, Sutlej and Bias rivers starting July 1 to Oct 10 every year irrespective of the extraordinary flood.

The two sides had also agreed to share information about the locations, format, reservoir inflows and outflows and conservation level and India honoured it all along until 2018 under annual renewal of the agreement. However, New Delhi did not respond to repeated requests from Islam­abad since March this year for renewal of the agreement — an annual feature — or exchange of information until July when it responded in writing that it would provide flood data only under the treaty i.e. only in case of extraordinary flood, thus practically reneging on its 29-year practice of providing regular three-month data.

As a result, India released without prior notice flows into the Sutlej river and did not consider these discharges ‘extraordinary’. “Pakistan considers this situation not a good sign for implementation of the treaty because a three-decade arrangement that helped avoid losses has been breached,” Mr Shah said.

Pakistan has repeatedly raised questions over six new projects — Kirthai I & II, Sawalkot, Keru, Bursar and Gipsa — being envisaged by India for construction on the rivers dedicated to Islamabad on the pretext that the government had not yet taken a final decision on their construction. Pak­is­tan has sought data about these projects.

The treaty binds India to provide complete data regarding development of hydropower projects and dams six months before the start of construction on them. India is also required to facilitate a visit of Pakis­tani experts to the controversial Kishang­anga hydropower project that it has been denying despite repeated requests since 2014.

The two sides have been holding customary two meetings a year of the Permanent Indus Commission, but India has practically reduced their frequency to one a year at best. The last meeting due in May this year could not be held so far because of evasive attitude of the Indian side.

Faced with such situations, the commissioner has to use regular communication with his counterpart to suggest an agenda item for a meeting and discussions. In case of inordinate delays or disagreement for about a year, a commissioner can declare failure and activate Article 9 of the treaty to resolve the dispute at the level of Permanent Indus Commission comprising commissioners from both countries.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2019