- India built the Kishenganga project on the Jhelum River.
- India is building the Ratle project on the Chenab River.
- The PCA rejected India’s objections about the court’s authority.
The World Bank’s neutral expert is set to convene a hearing regarding the ongoing water dispute between Pakistan and India, centered on the contentious designs of the 330-MW Kishenganga and 850-MW Ratle hydropower projects. This critical hearing is scheduled to take place from September 20 to September 21 in The Hague.
A senior official from the Attorney General’s office disclosed that Pakistan’s delegation includes the Commissioner of Indus Waters, high-ranking officials from the Attorney General’s Office, as well as a team of international lawyers retained by the Government of Pakistan. They will advocate Pakistan’s position in pursuit of justice during these proceedings.
Previously, proceedings were held before the neutral expert court on February 27-28, 2023, to establish the procedural rules governing the legal battle over the designs of both projects, which India is constructing on rivers within Pakistan’s territory.
India has completed the Kishenganga project on the Jhelum River and is currently in the process of building the Ratle project on the Chenab River.
Pakistan has chosen to present its case in two forums: the neutral expert, as proposed by New Delhi, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), favored by Islamabad. India initially avoided participating in the PCA due to concerns that Pakistan would likely prevail in the seven-member tribunal. However, India has now been compelled to participate in PCA proceedings. On July 7, 2023, the PCA rejected India’s six objections challenging the court’s jurisdiction, affirming its competence to consider the disputes outlined in Pakistan’s arbitration request.
The detailed Award de Ederer on July 7 upheld Pakistan’s stance while dismissing India’s objections. The PCA further emphasized that a party’s non-appearance did not affect the court’s jurisdiction or its authority to issue final, binding awards.
Pakistan sought resolution through arbitration, while India initially opposed it and initiated a parallel request for a neutral expert. Afterward, India contested the PCA’s jurisdiction, asserting that parallel proceedings were impermissible under the treaty and seeking to label the PCA as illegal.
The official remarked, “The court has now validated Pakistan’s position and rejected India’s six objections, opening the path for the court of arbitration to commence the hearing on the merits of Pakistan’s claim that the designs of these two projects violate the Indus Waters Treaty of 1961.”
India’s apprehension stemmed from its belief that Pakistan had a strong case. Should New Delhi lose the dispute, it would face constraints in constructing future projects with dams and spillways on Pakistani rivers. To disrupt PCA proceedings, India issued a notice to Pakistan on January 25, requesting modifications to the treaty just two days before the January 27-28 court hearing.
India invoked Article 12 of the Treaty to extend the notice. However, Pakistan responded in early April 2023, expressing readiness to address New Delhi’s concerns regarding the existing treaty through the Permanent Commission of Indus Waters (PCIW).
Pakistan has raised three objections to the Kishenganga project’s design, contending that the project’s reservoir size, currently at 7.5 million cubic meters, is excessive and should be reduced to one million cubic meters. Additionally, Pakistan seeks to raise the intake by 1-4 meters and increase the spillway height to nine meters.
Regarding the Ratle Hydropower plant, Islamabad has lodged four objections. Pakistan advocates maintaining a freeboard of one meter, while India prefers two meters. Pakistan also insists on limiting the reservoir size to eight million cubic meters, while India aims for 24 million cubic meters. Pakistan proposes an intake increase of up to 8.8 meters and raising the spillway height by up to 20 meters.
As the hearing approaches, both nations eagerly await the neutral expert’s decision, which could have far-reaching implications for the longstanding water dispute.