India Mellows Down, Says Differences on IWT Projects Can Be Resolved Bilaterally

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NEW Delhi: India Thursday strongly pitched for bilateral redressal of differences with Pakistan while implementing the 56-year-old Indus Water Treaty, a day after World Bank announced pausing of the two separate processes started to look into the dispute on Kishanganga and Ratle project.

“India has always believed that the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty, which includes the redressal of the technical questions and differences, should be done bilaterally between India and Pakistan,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his weekly media briefing here.

“There are examples available where such matters had been successfully resolved bilaterally within the Permanent Indus Commission (such as the height of the freeboard for Kishan Ganga) or between the two governments as seen in the Salal Hydro Electric Project in 1978,” he said.

Earlier this week, the World Bank Group, which had brokered the 1960 treaty, announced a pause in the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.

According to a statement issued by the World Bank, the announcement temporarily halts the appointment of a neutral expert, as requested by India, and the chairman of the Court of Arbitration as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding the two power plants under construction by India along the Indus rivers system.

Following the September 18 attack on an army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers, New Delhi, which blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, said that it would consider revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty, under which India has control over three eastern rivers — Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — all flowing from Punjab and Pakistan, controls the western rivers of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum that flow from Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir has been demanding a review of the treaty as it robs the state of its rights to use the water of the rivers.

The current processes under the treaty concern the Kishenganga (330 MW) and Ratle (850 MW) hydroelectric power plants, being built by India on the Kishenganga and Chenab rivers respectively.

“Given the will to address these matters through the appropriate mechanisms provided for in the Indus Waters Treaty, there is no reason why the technical design parameters on which Pakistan has raised objections cannot be sorted out by professional, technical experts from both sides,” Swarup said.

“We had advised the World Bank not to rush for initiating two parallel processes simultaneously and hold more consultations,” he said.

 “It is a matter of satisfaction that this point has now been recognised by the World Bank. We believe that these consultations should be given adequate time.”

The Indus Waters Treaty was seen as one of the most successful international treaties and has withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflict.

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