is great interest in bringing about rapprochement
between India and Pakistan and though Kashmir is the
main bone of contention the waters of the upper
reaches of Chenab and Indus rivers that run through
India and then into Pakistan is yet another issue.
In fact the Indus Water Treaty has the sanction of
the World Bank and has worked thus far with minor
irritants but these issues can blow up.
many military minds in India President Musharraf has
been an astute leader for Pakistan. He has beefed up
his nuclear defences for a first strike capability,
improved the economy and got USA to hold his hand
all the way. India by its "no first use",
nuclear policy could be lax in its nuclear defence
preparations as it takes years to operationalise a
system of nuclear release and there are few visible
signs that the Armed Forces are in the grid. Hence
researchers must look in to the water issues also as
Musharraf can bowl googlies and Pakistan is good at
cricket. Alok Gupta explains the Baglihar project
where a dam is proposed by India in Kashmir on the
Project –– The Recent Bone of Contention between
India and Pakistan
Dr. Alok Kumar Gupta*
Hydro Electric Power Project (BHEP) is constructing
a dam on river Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir, which
would produce 450MW of electricity for the people of
the state. The one billion dollar project is
scheduled to become operational from December 2007.
Almost 33 percent of the work stands completed.
The Baglihar dam is located in Chanderkote in Doda
district of Jammu and Kashmir. At the heart of the
dispute is the design of the project, which
according to Pakistan, provides for submerged gated
spillways and, therefore, allows Indian control over
Pakistani waters in breach of the Indus Water Treaty
signed between India and Pakistan in 1960,
brokered by the World Bank. Under the Treaty, India
has rights over the waters of the Ravi, Sutlej and
Beas rivers while Pakistan has rights over the
waters of the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum. All
the rivers flow from India to Pakistan.
secretary-level meeting took place on January 4–6,
2005 between India and Pakistan to resolve the
contention. The meeting was initially scheduled for
two days –– January 4 and 5, but was extended by
a day since the two delegations could not hammer out
a solution. The
12-member Indian team led by Secretary (Water
Resources) VK Duggal and the Pakistani delegation
headed by their Secretary (Water and Power) Ashfaq
Mehmood had held “focused” discussions on six
technical areas identified on the first day of the
talks. The six technical areas under discussion
include the gated spillway and the level of intake
three-day talks failed to resolve the issue as both
sides stuck to their positions.
Subsequently, Pakistan decided to formally approach
the World Bank over the issue
requesting for appointment of neutral experts to
resolve the dispute.
On January 18, 2005 Pakistan formally lodged a
petition with the World Bank seeking the appointment
of a “neutral expert” under the Indus Water
Treaty to sort out the Baglihar dam issue. This is
the first time since the last 45-years of the Treaty
that Pakistan has approached the WB to intervene.
The decision has created a new conflict point in the
Indo–Pak relations with enough potential to derail
the ongoing composite dialogue between the two
to Navtej Sarna, spokesperson Ministry of External
Affairs, “This is the first time that such
detailed technical discussions took place. We found
them very useful and some convergence has appeared.
We feel that further discussions should take place
and have offered Pakistan further discussions on the
issue.” … “We
believe that the data that we have given to Pakistan
should convince them that the technical parameters
of the project do not violate the Indus Water Treaty
provisions. We believe that further technical
discussions would be useful as these talks have
been. So this is our offer,” Mr Sarna said.
However, if Pakistan was still to choose to go to
the World Bank disregarding the Indian offer for
further technical discussions, India would respond
appropriately, was later stressed by Mr. Sarna.
thus, offered to continue the technical discussions
for another week but the Pakistani team said it
would do so only if construction was stopped at the
site. The Indian side, which returned to the table
on January 5, 2005 with responses to the six
specific technical issues raised by Pakistan, made
detailed presentations on the next day. But the
stalemate continued as Pakistani negotiators stuck
to their objections against the design
specifications of the plant. Pakistan was of the
view that the presentations only suggested that
India was building a ‘‘huge dam’’ and not a
and Power Secretary Ashfaq Mahmood said Pakistan has
done “everything and shown flexibility” to
resolve the issue bilaterally. According to Mahmood,
Pakistan had waited for five years, during which it
twice decided to approach the World Bank, but
dropped the idea. “This was the final attempt but
the situation is the same. So, the next step is
obvious –– go for appointment of neutral
experts,” he further added. He was of the opinion
that Pakistan had been talking to India in good
faith, hoping that the Baglihar issue would be
resolved bilaterally, but expressed regret that
India had been “talking and constructing” at the
Mr. Duggal, the Indian negotiator, sounded hopeful.
“The talks were held in a constructive and
positive manner...I would say that talks have moved
very well.” He said the Indian stand on the
Baglihar project was clear: that it was a
run-of-the-river project and was fully compatible
with the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty
between the two countries. India had proposed fresh
technical talks to Pakistan on the power project as
mentioned earlier. However, now that the matter has
been referred to World Bank, it remains to be seen
what turn it is going to take.
to Pakistan India had proposed construction of the
dam in 1992 and began building it in 2000 even
though it had not approved the design as required by
the Indus Water Treaty. Consequently, Pakistan
wanted India to halt the ongoing work on the dam.
The main reasons given by Pakistan were:
will stop the flow of water into its rivers;
violates the 1960 Indus Water Treaty;
maintains that under the Treaty the use of the
Chenab waters is its exclusive privilege and a
‘big dam’ on the river is against the letter
and spirit of the Treaty;
gated structure would provide India the
capability to manipulate the flow of water to
has decided to invoke Article 9(2)(a) of the 1960
Indus Water Treaty, which
provides for settling disputes through neutral
experts or arbitration if they cannot be resolved
between the two Indus Water Commissioners. Pakistan
insists that there can be no turning back. Though
Pakistan had never done so with other projects in
J&K, particularly Tulbul, which had been hanging
fire for more than 17 years.
contention is that the 450-megawatt power project
does not propose to store water and will not disrupt
is unhappy with the turn of events and insists that
there were no grounds for apprehension that the dam
violated the 1960 Indus Water Treaty
between India and Pakistan.
It also claims that the
neutral experts, if appointed, would also arrive at
the same conclusion. Taking cue from the fate of the
Tulbul project, India had refused to accede to
Islamabad’s request for stopping the construction
work till a mutually acceptable settlement was
reached. Pakistan asked India to stop work on Tulbul
Project for three months but the project has not
taken off again since India stopped construction, as
a goodwill gesture, seventeen years ago.
the recently concluded bilateral talks between India
and Pakistan on the Baglihar project the Indian side
presented quite detailed technical information to
the Pakistani side to convince them that there was
no ground for any apprehension that the project
violated the Indus Water Treaty or any of the
technical parameters in the Treaty. The Indian
spokesman insisted that this was the first time that
such detailed technical discussions were held. On
the contrary, the Pakistani side had been
maintaining that this was the second time when such
Secretary-level detailed technical talks were held.
Government of Jammu and Kashmir accused Pakistan of
creating obstacles in the functioning of Baglihar
power project. Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister
Muzaffar Beig reacted in the newspapers, “The
neighbouring country should not jeopardize our power
project. It is built on our river — Chenab. Do
Kashmiris have no right on their own waters?”
“In fact, it (Baglihar) should not have formed
part of the talks between the two sides,” Beig
said. Kashmir is facing a huge power shortage but
has the potential to generate as much as 15,000 MW
to its current production of just 600 MW, the
minister said, adding if this continues, then “we
would not be able to use our resources.” “If
Pakistan claims that it has the interests of the
Kashmiri uppermost in its mind, then it should not
create obstacles in the functioning of the Baglihar
Project, set up by the Government of Jammu and
Kashmir”, Beig added. Meanwhile, on January 9,
2005, Jammu and Kashmir Power Development
Corporation (JKPDC) signed an agreement with a
consortium comprising nine big financial
institutions for raising a loan of Rs 17.70 bn (Rs.
1770 crore) for timely completion of the project.
The consortium comprises of the Power Finance
Corporation (PFC), Rural Electrification
Corporation, HUDCO, J-K Bank Limited, Union Bank of
India, UCO bank, Central Bank of India, Indian
Overseas Bank and Canara Bank.
World Bank (WB) after receiving the letter from
Pakistan, in its official release said, it would
examine the procedures laid down by the Treaty.
According to the release the Bank is not a guarantor
of the Treaty, but a signatory for certain specified
purposes. The release also mentions that many of the
purposes for which the WB signed the Treaty have
been completed. There were now three remaining
responsibilities for the Bank under the Treaty
relating to the settlement of differences and
disputes. According to the Bank, disagreements by
the parties on the interpretation of the provisions
of the Treaty are classified into three categories:
are examined by the permanent Indus commission;
by neutral experts; and
by a court of arbitration.
to the Bank, the first step under the Treaty was to
resolve any “question” through the Permanent
Indus Commission itself. If the “question” was
not resolved there, it became a “difference” and
was referred to a neutral expert, to be appointed by
the two countries, or by a third party agreed upon
by the two countries. In the absence of such an
agreement, the WB, in consultation with the two
countries, will appoint the neutral expert. The
decision of the neutral expert on all matters within
his competence shall be final and binding. The
second residual responsibility of the Bank is to
manage a trust to meet the expenses of a neutral
expert. Finally, the Bank has the responsibility to
establish a court of arbitration. If the
“difference” does not fall within the mandate of
the neutral expert, or if the neutral expert rules
that the “difference” should be treated as a
“dispute”, then a court of arbitration will be
established. Under the Treaty, the WB has a role in
the establishment of such a court.
seems to be worried that the project could present a
strategic threat, giving India the control over
waters vital to agriculture in Punjab province of
Pakistan. It may not have a direct impact on the
ongoing composite dialogue process between the two
countries but will most certainly be an irritant.
Nevertheless, it has all potentiality to derail the
ongoing dialogue process between the two countries,
as one can comprehend from the given history of
relations between the two neighbors. Pakistan, true
to its nature, once again is failing to show signs
of mature diplomacy. Pakistan seems to be trying to
use the issue as a pretext for castigating the image
of India in the eyes of the international community.
If Pakistan is so interested in resolving the issue
why did it not take the matter relating to the
Tulbul project to the World Bank. Such bilateral
issue must be resolved amicably in the interest of
Kashmiri people in particular and the general masses
of both the countries in general, rather than
getting it internationalized to bully India.
has been a marked improvement in the recent past in
the overall environment and it seems that both the
countries have moved away from the tense phase when
armies from both the sides were placed in an eyeball
to eyeball situation on their respective borders.
The announcement relating to confidence building
measures is still awaiting articulation and
implementation. Under such circumstances both the
countries are required to be possessive about the
development and maintain the growing bonhomie. A
mature diplomacy is an immediate imperative.
Baruah, “Indo-Pak talks on Baglihar dam
fail”, The Hindu (New Delhi), January 08,
Sharma, “India proposes fresh talks on
Baglihar, Pakistan to move World Bank”,
Tribune News Service, January 11, 2005.
Delhi to take appropriate action if Pakistan
approaches World Bank”, The Tribune,
Chandigarh, January 11, 2005.
raises Rs. 17.70 bn loan for Baglihar
project”, Business India, January 09, 2005.
Reddy, “Baglihar Project: Expert Verdict
binding on India, Pakistan”, The Hindu (New
Delhi), January 11, 2005.
Puri, “J& K resents Pak. Opposition to
Baglihar project”, The Hindu (New Delhi),
January 11, 2005.
Reddy, “Baglihar needs to be resolved:
Musharraf”, The Hindu (New Delhi), January 20,
Reddy, “Pakistan goes to World Bank”, The
Hindu (New Delhi), January 19, 2005.
Baruah, “Pakistan decision on Baglihar
unjustified”, The Hindu (New Delhi), January
World Bank receives Pakistan’s request”, The
Hindu (New Delhi), January 20, 2005.
author is a Lecturer, Faculty of Policy Sciences at
National Law University, Jodhpur.