In a surprising gesture, the Indian government has given the nod to an official delegation of Pakistan Indus Water Commissions to visit the Chenab Basin from January 27. The 1,000 MW Pakal Dul and 48 MW Lower Kalnal is at the heart of the visit. India’s approval is a gesture of the promise made during the 115th meeting of the Permanent Commission for Indus Waters (PCIW) held between the two countries. During the meeting, India had agreed to allow Pakistani experts to inspect the two aforementioned projects as well as the Kishanganga project at Jhelum Basin. Pakistan had agreed to allow India to inspect the Kotri Barrage over the Indus.
According to Pakistan media reports, Islamabad had raised serious concerns over the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects. Islamabad’s fears were that India would use the reservoirs to create artificial water shortage or flooding in Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan alleged that the projects had been designed in violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). The IWT was signed in 1960. According to the World Bank, the Treaty has outlined a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission, which has a commissioner from each country. However, India and Pakistan have a disagreement about the construction of the Kishenganga (330MW) and Ratle (850MW) hydroelectric power plants being built by India. “The two plants are on tributary of the Jhelum and the Chenab Rivers. The two countries disagree over whether the technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants contravene the Treaty,” says the World Bank.
Can IWT Resolve the Kashmir Issue?
In 1951, David Lilienthal, a former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, while on a visit to the region argued that a transboundary water accord between India and Pakistan would help ease some of the hostility from the 1947 partition as the rivers of the Indus Basin flow through Kashmir. However, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “blood and water cannot flow together.
With the resurgence of violence in Kashmir in 2016, India made several threats to review the IWT. The Hague Institute for Global Justice states that the frustrations with the IWT exist across all levels of government, especially in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). “In 2010, Pakistan brought a case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over hydropower development and interference with river flow. It was awarded to Pakistan, securing a certain minimum flow to be released by India”, it said.
Experts say IWT has been and is being used as a ‘tool’ in high-level negotiations over the Kashmir dispute. Furthermore, water is strongly embedded in high-level bilateral negotiations over Kashmir.