Indus Water Treaty: Pakistan warned against use of water as an instrument of Pressure or War

United Nations, Nov 23: In an apparent reference to row over Indus Water Treaty, Pakistan has warned against the use of water as an instrument of coercion or war and asserted that international community must remain vigilant to any sign of unwillingness to maintain cooperation on resolving water issues.

“The international community must assume a responsibility to develop, nurture and protect normative frameworks, at multilateral and bilateral levels, to ensure that states remain willing to resolve water issues cooperatively,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, said in her address to the UN Security Council during an open debate on water, peace, and security.

“It must promote bilateral and regional agreements on waterways; and once they are evolved, ensure that they are not undermined through unilateral or coercive measures,” Lodhi said as she described the India-Pak Indus Water Treaty of 1960, with the World Bank as guarantor, a model of what can be achieved through bilateral agreements.

“But this Treaty is equally a good case study of what could go wrong if such agreements are not honoured or threatened by one of the state parties to be abrogated altogether.

The international community must remain vigilant to any sign of unwillingness to maintain cooperation and be willing act to avert any conflict,” Lodhi said.

In his address, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also mentioned Indus Water Treaty, saying it withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including wars.

“In the second half of the 20th century, more than 200 water treaties were successfully negotiated. International river agreements have enhanced security and stability in river basins,” he said.

“The 1960 Indus Waters agreement between India and Pakistan has famously survived at least two wars and numerous clashes and diplomatic crises,” Ban said.

The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission which includes a commissioner from each of the two countries.

It also sets out a process for resolving so-called “questions”, “differences” and “disputes” that may arise between the parties.

He said management of more than 200 international rivers and at least that many transboundary aquifers was especially important.

Cautioning that the issue of access to water could exacerbate communal tensions, as in Afghanistan and Peru, he said, that armed conflict resulted in the destruction of water supply, as seen in Syria and Gaza.

The United Nations actively promotes mediation and dialogue as effective tools for preventing and resolving disputes over water and natural resources, he added.

The World Bank, a signatory to the Indus Waters Treaty, on November 10 asked India and Pakistan to “agree to mediation” in order to settle on a mechanism for how the Treaty should be used to resolve issues regarding two dams under construction along the Indus river system.

India took a strong exception to the World Bank’s “inexplicable” decision to set up a Court of Arbitration and appoint a Neutral Expert to go into Pakistan’s complaint against it over Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan had sought the establishment of a Court of Arbitration, which is normally the logical next step in the process of resolution in the Treaty. The Neutral Expert can also determine that there are issues beyond mere technical differences, he noted.

Pakistan has raised objections to the design of the hydel project in J&K, saying it is not in line with the criteria laid down in the Indus Water Treaty between the two countries.