A high-level Pakistani delegation arrived in Washington on Sunday for the three-day talks, which would cover four key points: the height of the Kishanganga dam, its capacity to hold water, Pakistan’s demand for setting up a court of arbitration to settle the dispute, and India’s counter-demand for an international expert.
On Saturday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the dam, ignoring Pakistan’s objections and the World Bank’s efforts to find a solution acceptable to both India and Pakistan.
Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, at a news conference on Saturday said the water dispute was “hugely important for us as we are an agricultural country and water is our lifeline”.
He added: “As a lower riparian country, we have the right to have unfettered access to the water that flows into Pakistan from the upper riparian areas.”
The Pakistani delegation includes Indus Water Commissioner Mehr Ali Shah, Water and Power Secretary Shumail Khwaja and spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Faisal. Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali will lead it.
Mr Ali and his team will meet World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and other senior officials during their three-day stay in Washington, explaining why Pakistan felt threatened by the Indian move.
“We have been urging the World Bank for years to help settle this dispute,” said Ambassador Chaudhary. “It is a dispute that needs immediate attention.”
Islamabad argues that the dam violates the conditions that the treaty places on the construction of a structure that can hinder the flow of a river. The treaty, which distributes the water of the six Indus valley rivers between India and Pakistan, fixes the height and the storage capacity for all such dams.
Pakistan says that the Kishanganga dam is higher than the suggested height and has a wider pondage area than stipulated in the treaty. India claims that it had corrected both about two years ago, when Pakistan first raised the objections.
Islamabad rejects the Indian claim, saying that the dam inaugurated on Saturday “still violates the suggested conditions and is against the spirit of the treaty”.
The treaty recognises the World Bank as an arbitrator and Pakistan has asked the bank to form a court of arbitration to settle the dispute because its decision will be legally binding.
India has rejected the Pakistani proposal and asked the bank to appoint an international expert to look into the issue. Pakistan says that the decision of an expert would be his or her opinion and will have no legal status.
Pakistan has termed the project’s inauguration a serious breach of the treaty which was negotiated by the World Bank in 1960. “The World Bank, as a guarantor of the accord, must intervene and fulfil its duty,” Ambassador Chaudhary said.
Asked what Pakistan could achieve by raising objections after the completion of the dam, he said the Kishanganga plant was only one of several that India has fast-tracked in the disputed Himalayan region.
Islamabad wants the bank to take a decision that is binding on both countries before other projects were completed, he added.