Updated Aug 30, 2018 07:31am

Pakistan to go for arbitration if India ignores concerns

Khalid Hasnain

LAHORE: Pakistan on Wednesday urged India to entertain the objections it has raised over the construction of the 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnal hydropower projects on the River Chenab.

It conveyed in categorical terms to the visiting Indian team that Islamabad would approach the international forums defined in the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) in case New Delhi failed to accept the requests as narrated in the detailed objections.

“We have categorically made it clear that we will have no option but to use international forums — appointment of neutral experts, taking the case to international court of arbitration, etc — in case India failed to address our concerns that are absolutely genuine and can be resolved amicably,” one of the officials of the Pakistani side told Dawn after conclusion of the first round of the two-day dialogue which began here between the Pakistan-India delegations headed by the commissioners for Indus waters of the two countries.

Islamabad’s objections to transgressions in construction of power projects on Chenab river conveyed during water talks

The nine-member team led by Indian commissioner Pradeep Kumar Saxena had arrived on Tuesday for talks with their Pakistani counterparts on water disputes on the platform of the Pakistan-India Permanent Commission for Indus Waters.

In the first round of talks, Pakistan’s commissioner Syed Mohammad Mehr Ali Shah raised the objections, possible solutions to the problem, India’s previous replies, feedback, etc. He told the Indian side that the objections raised were based on facts and must be resolved under the provisions of the IWT.

“We once again presented our stance effectively on technical and logical grounds and they (India) had no logic to reject it. Finally the Indian delegation sought to discuss the issues in detail in the second round of the talks scheduled to be held on Thursday (today),” the official privy to the meeting claimed.

“The Indian side assured the Pakistani side of taking up the issues in the next meeting of the commission to be held in India,” he added.

According to another official, Pakistani authorities asked the Indians to reduce the height of the Pakal Dul’s reservoir up to five metres. “The authorities also urged India to maintain 40-metre height above sea level while making spillways’ gates of the Pakal Dul project besides clarifying the pattern and mechanism for the water storage and releases. Similarly Pakistan raised some technical concerns over design of the the Lower Kalnal hydropower project, requesting India to address them at the earliest,” he said.

On the other hand, the country’s former commissioner for Indus waters Syed Jamat Ali Shah termed the talks a futile exercise to resolve such issues under the IWT. “We had raised objections over the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnal projects in 2012. Later these were discussed once in a meeting held in 2014 and now it is 2018. You can judge well India’s ‘interest and seriousness’ to address our concerns,” he deplored while talking to Dawn.

He criticised India for paying meagre attention to Pakistan’s concerns. “It is 2018. And they have already started construction work on these projects,” he claimed.

Mr Shah also blamed the Pakistani government for not convincing the international forums of its genuine concerns due to lack of lobbying. “It is a dire need of the hour for Pakistan to not see the water-related issues within the ambit of the Treaty alone, as it must start talks with India at a very high level seriously. We must convey to them clearly that we will not allow you to use water of the rivers that are ours under the Treaty,” he said.

Mr Shah urged the government to immediately set up a high-level committee comprising water experts having capacity for lobbying at the international level.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2018

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