India And Pakistan To Arbitrate Water Feud

Courtesy of The Financial Times, a report that India and Pakistan are establishing an arbitration panel to address an intensifying dispute over rival hydro-electric projects, highlighting the growing importance of water in the tensions between the dry but nuclear-armed neighbours.  As the article notes:

“…Tensions have been rising as both countries face deepening water crises, the result of rampant over-use of water for agriculture and growing demand from industry.

The dispute centres on India’s plans to build the 330-megawatt Kishanganga hydro-electric project in Kashmir, the divided region at the centre of the decades-old animosity between the neighbours. Pakistan’s decision to seek arbitration over Kishanganga comes as New Delhi has accused Islamabad of deliberately ratcheting up tensions on the sensitive issue of water-sharing to mobilise popular anger against India.

Pakistan claims India’s project, which has been designed to divert water from one tributary of the Jhelum river to another, will adversely affect its own 969MW Neelum-Jhelum project, being built downstream on the Jhelum with Chinese backing.

Water-sharing between India and Pakistan is regulated by the Indus Water Treaty, a 1960 pact brokered by the World Bank which governs the use of six rivers that flow through India – three from the disputed Kashmir region and three from Indian Punjab – into Pakistan.

India says its plans for Kishanganga were drawn up long before the Neelum-Jhelum project was conceived and that it complies with the Indus Water Treaty as it will not affect the quantity of water eventually flowing into Pakistan.

The two countries are in the process of convening a seven-member Court of Arbitration, in accordance with the provisions of the 50-year-old treaty, to adjudicate the dispute.

Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, says Pakistan’s reopening of the water-sharing agreement could backfire, as it may prompt India to rethink a treaty that he says is extremely generous to Pakistan.

“There is no treaty in the world which has been so generous on the part of the upper riparian to the lower riparian state,” he said. “The issue really is the fact that India is starving its own northern regions and reserving four-fifths of the water for Pakistan. If Pakistan plays this dangerous game, they will make India review its generosity.”

Earlier this year, a top Indian official told the Financial Times that Islamabad was using its domestic water shortages to “create another anti-India issue that can capture the popular imagination in Pakistan”.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 10:58 am and is filed under India, Pakistan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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