Neutral expert to hold hearing on Pakistan-India water dispute

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The World Bank’s neutral expert is scheduled to conduct a hearing on the ongoing Pakistan-India water dispute regarding the designs of the 330-MW Kishenganga and 850-MW Ratle hydropower projects. The hearing is set to take place from September 20 to September 21 in The Hague.

Pakistan’s delegation, which includes the country’s commissioner of Indus Waters, top officials from the Attorney General’s Office, and a team of international lawyers hired by the Government of Pakistan, will advocate for Pakistan’s position during the hearing.

Previously, proceedings were held in February 2023 to finalize the rules of procedure for advancing the legal battle over the project designs, which are being constructed by India on Pakistan’s rivers.

India has completed the Kishenganga project on the Jhelum River and is in the process of building the Ratle project on the Chenab River. Pakistan has pursued its case through two channels: the neutral expert appointed by the World Bank at India’s request and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at Pakistan’s request.

India initially avoided participating in the PCA proceedings, fearing that Pakistan would likely win the case in the seven-member PCA. However, on July 7, 2023, the PCA rejected India’s six objections to the court’s jurisdiction, affirming its competence to consider Pakistan’s disputes. The court’s detailed Award de Ederer accepted Pakistan’s position and rejected India’s objections.

Despite India’s non-appearance before the court, the PCA emphasized that a party’s absence did not affect the court’s competence or its duty to verify jurisdiction over the dispute.

Pakistan had sought to resolve the disputes through arbitration, while India sought a neutral expert instead. India later challenged the arbitration process and requested a neutral expert, arguing that parallel proceedings under the treaty were not permissible. India’s intention was to declare the PCA illegal.

The court’s acceptance of Pakistan’s stance and rejection of India’s objections has cleared the way for the court of arbitration to begin hearing Pakistan’s claims on the merits, specifically addressing the alleged breaches of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1961 by the two projects.

India’s concerns centered on the potential repercussions if it were to lose the case, as it could impact its ability to construct future projects on Pakistani rivers with specific design features.

Pakistan has raised multiple objections to the designs of the Kishenganga and Ratle projects, including issues related to the project ponds, intake levels, freeboard, and spillways. The hearing aims to address these contentious points in the ongoing water dispute between the two countries.


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