Hague, 7 July, 2023 (GNP): The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague has rejected India’s objections to a Pakistan-initiated procedure over water use in the Indus River basin, signaling a significant development in the long-standing dispute between the South Asian neighbors.
The PCA’s decision reopens a procedure that had been blocked for many years, paving the way for further deliberations on the matter.
Press Release: PCA Case No. 2023-01: Proceedings under the Indus Waters Treaty, the Court of Arbitration Renders its Award on Competence; Issues Procedural Order No. 6 on Further Proceedings Click here for the Press Release: today (in English) https://t.co/0WBTUi3ygc pic.twitter.com/DIIg3OenMP
— Permanent Court of Arbitration (@PCA_CPA) July 6, 2023
The dispute revolves around the construction of hydroelectric projects on the shared Indus River and its tributaries, with Pakistan expressing concerns that India’s proposed dams in upstream areas would negatively impact the river’s flow, which is vital for its irrigated agriculture.
In response, Pakistan sought resolution through PCA arbitration proceedings in 2016, while India called the procedure illegal, citing ongoing parallel proceedings involving a neutral expert under the World Bank-brokered treaty.
In a unanimous decision, the PCA rejected each of India’s objections and asserted its competence to consider and determine the disputes raised in Pakistan’s request for arbitration. The court’s statement emphasized that its decision is binding on both parties and without appeal.
It also outlined that the upcoming proceedings will focus on the interpretation and application of the bilateral Indus Water Treaty, particularly its provisions on hydroelectric projects, as well as the legal effect of past decisions made by dispute resolution bodies under the treaty.
While India has expressed reservations about the court’s jurisdiction and has boycotted the proceedings, it has participated in the proceedings of the neutral expert, which it considers to be the only treaty-consistent avenue at present. India maintains that the construction of its Kishanganga and Ratle Hydro Electric projects aligns with the treaty’s provisions.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty and its settlement mechanism, considering it a foundational agreement between the two nations. The Foreign Office expressed hope that India would also adhere to the treaty in good faith.
The PCA’s ruling sets the stage for further discussions and examination of the Indus Water Treaty’s stipulations and the resolution of the water dispute between India and Pakistan. The court did not provide specific details regarding the continuation of the case, but it is anticipated that subsequent proceedings will shed light on the matter.