Secretary-level talks with Pakistan to be held in Washington has been put on hold by an angry India. It seems that seemingly talks on this World Bank-facilitated initiative has been cancelled for the time being due to differences of opinion on technical issues of Indus River hydel projects. Further expert level technical discussions are imperative before the two secretaries can meet. The meeting would be futile if the water resources secretaries meet without the requisite preparation.
However the writings on the wall are very clear for everyone to read as India’s move to cancel talks comes close on the heels of Pakistani military tribunal’s order to execute Kulbhusban Jadhav. Delhi has also put on hold a maritime dialogue with Pakistan and is weighing several other tough political and legal options to safeguard Jadhav. Efforts to safeguard Jadhav could become a prolonged process Pakistanis have tied themselves in web of deceit and also various legal knots as well.
The Pakistani side, following the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) meeting last month, had announced on its own that water resources secretaries of the two countries will meet in the US capital in April to discuss differences over the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects on the river Indus. Islamabad has been protesting over the design and construction of the two projects — the 330MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project and the 850MW Ratle hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad has been demanding international arbitration through the World Bank.
The World Bank, which brokered the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, said it was prepared to facilitate the meeting and work with both countries to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty. The Bank hoped that the two countries would come to an agreement soon. However the Bank itself got a shock of its life when it was snubbed by India. The World Bank has itself realized that days of arm twisting India is over.
The PIC annual meet (held in Pakistan) for 2016-17 was to be the v first after all bilateral dialogue under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) was suspended following terror strikes on an army camp in Uri last September by Pak based terror groups. However, attempting to signal a thaw in ties, India decided to hold PIC meet before the end of financial year in March. The 10-member Indian delegation at PIC was led by Indian Indus Water Commissioner PK Saxena. However the talk remained in conclusive due to Pakistan’s stance that India must stop all work on these two Projects.
Delhi thereafter took very strong exception to the World Bank’s decision to set up a court of arbitration as desired by Pakistan, as earlier World Bank had agreed appoint a neutral expert, as wanted by India, over the two projects. It said proceeding with both steps simultaneously was “legally untenable”.
Now only way out for Pakistan to start talks on the subject is to hand over Jadhav unconditionally. Alternatively they should start conserving their rain water diligently.