Won’t join proceedings at Hague tribunal: India on Indus water dispute with Pak | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Won’t join proceedings at Hague tribunal: India on Indus water dispute with Pak

Jul 06, 2023 08:46 PM IST

India contends that Pakistan’s move to approach the Hague-based tribunal was illegal since the disputes were being addressed by a neutral expert under Indus Waters Treaty

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday made it clear it will not join proceedings initiated by Pakistan at the Permanent Court of Arbitration over two hydropower projects in Kashmir that has ruled it was competent to consider and determine the disputes.

India’s decision to seek modification of the Indus Waters Treaty was a direct outcome of Pakistan’s move to approach the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 (File Photo)
India’s decision to seek modification of the Indus Waters Treaty was a direct outcome of Pakistan’s move to approach the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 (File Photo)

The Indian side has contended that Pakistan’s move to approach the Hague-based tribunal was illegal since the disputes were already being addressed by a neutral expert under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty. Earlier this year, India also sought the modification of the six-decade-old treaty because of the Pakistani side’s “intransigence”.

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Asked about the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a regular media briefing that India’s position has always been that the proceedings at the Hague-based tribunal are not consistent with the Indus Waters Treaty and are “patently illegal”.

“Our consistent and principled position has been that the constitution of this so-called court of arbitration is in contravention of the clear letter and spirit of the Indus Waters Treaty. A neutral expert is already seized of the differences pertaining to the Kishanganga and the Ratle [hydropower projects],” he said.

“I don’t think legal sophistry or...a façade is going to compel India to participate in what we think are patently illegal proceedings instituted in contravention of the treaty, that is [at] the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” he added.

Bagchi said the proceedings by the neutral expert are the “only treaty-consistent proceedings at this juncture and parallel proceedings on the same set of issues are prohibited under the Indus Waters Treaty”.

He added, “India has been participating in the treaty-consistent neutral expert proceedings and the last meeting was held [during] February 27-28, and the next meeting is to be held in September.”

Bagchi reiterated that the Indian government has been in talks with its Pakistani counterpart “on the modification of the Indus Waters Treaty under Article XII (3)”.

A statement from the Permanent Court of Arbitration said the tribunal had considered objections to the competence of the court raised by India in the form of correspondence with the World Bank. The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan, and was brokered by the World Bank, which too was a signatory.

The statement said: “In a unanimous decision, which is binding on the Parties and without appeal, the Court rejected each of the objections raised by India and determined that the Court is competent to consider and determine the disputes set forth in Pakistan’s Request for Arbitration.”

The Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a procedural order regarding the next phase of the proceedings. “In the next phase, the Court will address certain questions concerning the overall interpretation and application of the [Indus Waters] Treaty’s provisions on hydro-electric project design and operation, as well as the legal effect of past decisions of dispute resolution bodies under the Treaty,” the statement said.

People familiar with the matter said India’s decision to seek modification of the Indus Waters Treaty was a direct outcome of Pakistan’s move to approach the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 after asking the World Bank to appoint a “neutral expert” to examine its objections to the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects in 2015.

This unilateral action by Pakistan contravened the “graded mechanism of dispute settlement” envisaged in Article IX of the Indus Waters Treaty, the Indian side contended.

The treaty has been the most durable pact between the two countries but has come under pressure in recent years as bilateral ties plunged to an all-time low because of tensions over terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir. The treaty allocated the western rivers – Indus, Jhelum, Chenab – to Pakistan and the eastern rivers – Ravi, Beas and Sutlej – to India. It also allowed each country certain uses on the rivers allocated to the other.

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