The Essential Kishanganga Post – I

Readers may be aware of an international dispute between India and Pakistan over the Kishanganga (var. Kishenganga) project under the Indus Waters Treaty (1960, available here) currently pending at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). (India is also involved in another arbitration with Bangladesh pending at the PCA [see here].) This is the first time a dispute under the Indus Waters Treaty (persistently surviving many wars for over 50 years now) has been referred to arbitration. From an international legal perspective (which is certainly not the only one, see below), the use of arbitration as a means for dispute settlement between India and Pakistan certainly seems quite promising. Earlier, in a dispute over the Baglihar project between the two countries, the matter was referred to a neutral expert under the Treaty, who, under the aegis of the World Bank and ICSID, issued his expert determination in 2007 (summary of expert report here).

Without getting into the merits of the dispute at this stage, this post notes some recent developments and resources on the Kishanganga arbitration:

1. The Tribunal (headed by Stephen Schwebel, composition here) conducted a week-long site visit in June, 2011. Arriving in Islamabad, they traveled to inspect the Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project, crossed the Line of Control and traveled to Srinagar, inspecting the Kishanganga project, before finally reaching Delhi. According to the PCA Press Release, the Tribunal observed “expert briefings and features” during the visit. The PCA Press Release is available here, and is accompanied by this photograph of the members inspecting the Kishanganga project (I quite like the transparency of the PCA on this thus far):

2. A wonderful summary of the dispute and the main arguments by both the countries is provided by Athar Parvaiz (available here). Parvaiz notes:

Pakistan has raised objections to a number of controversial projects undertaken by India in Kashmir in the past, including the Baglihar project on the Chenab River and the Wullar Barrage on the Jhelum River. But the Kishanganga dispute assumes a greater significance because Pakistan is also vying to construct its own project – the Neelum-Jhelum hydro scheme – on the Pakistani side of the Neelum River. The IWT states that the country that completes its project first will secure priority rights to the river

The dispute over the Kishanganga project itself centres on the diversion of water from one tributary of the Indus River to another. Pakistan said this violates the IWT, while India argues the diversion is well within treaty provisions. India maintains that it will only divert the Neelum to join the Jhelum River, which also flows through Pakistan – and that therefore the water will ultimately reach Pakistan anyway.

3. A different, and essentially non-legal, perspective is offered by Maaz Gardezi of the LUMS Water Programme here. Gardezi argues that there is a “trust deficit” between the two riparians and that:

The difference between Kashmir and the water issue is that the latter is an existential issue. Therefore, the consequence of bringing water to a pedestal on India-Pakistan relations can have devastating effects on regional security and prosperity. We need to work closely with our neighbours in order to share this resource, rather than divide it. 

4. There have been several reports about a domestic controversy in Pakistan over its legal representation in the dispute. Details on this can be found here (posted Jan. 18, 2011), here (posted Jul. 2010), and here (posted Jul. 7 2011).

5. Ramaswamy Iyer, a noted Indian expert on water, recently published an insightful opinion on the issue (available here). According to Iyer, water has the potential of becoming a new ‘core issue’ of even greater importance than Kashmir. He goes on to identify and analyze the common arguments raised by Pakistan against Indian actions. He concludes noting that:

Right or wrong, certain misperceptions on water persist and are widespread in Pakistan. This has serious implications for India-Pakistan relations and for peace on the subcontinent. Persistent efforts are needed at both official and non-official levels to remove misperceptions and to reassure the people of Pakistan that their anxieties are uncalled for.

(Interestingly, even after the matter was referred to arbitration, Iyer published an article in June 2010 (available here) arguing that despite the initiation of arbitration, India and Pakistan should settle the dispute by an agreement, as opposed to arbitration which is an expensive, time consuming and adversarial process.) 

6. Meanwhile, in addition to the Kishanganga dispute, other reports indicate that a recent meeting between officials of India and Pakistan in May 2011 over the Wullar Barrage dispute also failed to resolve the deadlock. (report here.)

ILCurry hopes to follow the Kishanganga arbitration closely and welcomes readers to contribute to the discussion.

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One thought on “The Essential Kishanganga Post – I

  1. Pingback: BREAKING: Award in India-Pak Kishenganga Arbitration Delivered | International Law Curry

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