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PCA Ruling on India-Pakistan Hydroelectric Projects


The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear Pakistan’s objections to India’s Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir. However, India rejects the establishment of the “Court of Arbitration,” arguing that it contravenes the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).


GS II: International  Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indus River Basin
  2. Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)
  3. Dispute Resolution Mechanisms under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT):
  4. Hydroelectric Project Dispute between India and Pakistan
  5. Ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the Hydroelectric Project Dispute
  6. Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

Indus River Basin

  • The Indus River (also called the Sindhū) is one of the longest rivers in Asia and the longest river of Pakistan.
  • It flows through China (western Tibet), India (Ladakh) and Pakistan.
  • Its estimated annual flow is estimated to be twice that of the Nile River making it one of the largest rivers in the world in terms of annual flow.
  • The Zanskar river is its left bank tributary in Ladakh.
  • In the plains, its left bank tributary is the Panjnad which itself has five major tributaries, namely, the Chenab, Jhelum, the Ravi, the Beas, and the Sutlej.
  • Its principal right bank tributaries are the Shyok, the Gilgit, the Kabul, the Gomal, and the Kurram.

About the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)

  • The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank, to use the water available in the Indus River and its tributaries.
  • The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed in Karachi in 1960.
  • The Treaty gives control over the waters of the three “eastern rivers” — the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej to India, while control over the waters of the three “western rivers” — the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum to Pakistan.
  • India was allocated about 16% of the total water carried by the Indus system while Pakistan was allocated the remainder.
  • The treaty allows India to use the Western River waters (the ones in Pakistan’s control) for limited irrigation use and unlimited non-consumptive use for such applications as power generation, navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc.
  • It lays down detailed regulations for India in building projects over the western rivers.
  • The preamble of the treaty recognises the rights and obligations of each country in the optimum use of water from the Indus system in a spirit of goodwill, friendship and cooperation.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT):

Communication via Permanent Indus Commission (PIC):

  • Each country appoints a commissioner to the PIC.
  • Parties notify each other about planned projects on the Indus River.
  • PIC facilitates the exchange of necessary information.
  • Aims to resolve differences and prevent escalation.

Neutral Expert:

  • If the PIC fails to resolve the issue, it proceeds to the next level.
  • The World Bank appoints a neutral expert.
  • The expert attempts to resolve the differences between the parties.

Court of Arbitration (CoA):

  • If the neutral expert process is unsuccessful, the dispute is referred to the CoA.
  • CoA resolves the dispute through arbitration.
  • The IWT specifies that the neutral expert and CoA steps are mutually exclusive, allowing only one mechanism to be used at a time for a given dispute.

Hydroelectric Project Dispute between India and Pakistan

  • The dispute involves the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India and Pakistan have differing views on the technical design features of these projects in relation to the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).
India’s Stance:

Opposition to the Court of Arbitration (CoA):

  • India argues that the constitution of the CoA goes against the provisions of the IWT.
  • It questions the jurisdiction and competence of the CoA, claiming it was not properly constituted as per the treaty.
  • India has not appointed arbitrators or participated in the court’s proceedings, advocating for a single dispute resolution process.

Emphasis on a Single Dispute Resolution Process:

  • India highlights the need for a unified and mutually agreed-upon mechanism to resolve the dispute.
  • It emphasizes that the IWT does not empower the World Bank to determine the precedence of one procedure over the other.
The World Bank’s Role:
  • The World Bank has paused the process due to separate requests from both India and Pakistan.
  • It has urged the parties to resolve the dispute through the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC).
Pakistan’s Stance:
  • Pakistan retracted its request for a Neutral Expert and proposed the Court of Arbitration instead.
  • It has raised objections to the hydroelectric projects, citing treaty violations, concerns about reduced water flow, and environmental impact.
Current Status:
  • The dispute remains unresolved, with India opposing the CoA and advocating for a single dispute resolution process.
  • Regenerate response

Ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the Hydroelectric Project Dispute:

  • The PCA has ruled that the Court of Arbitration (CoA) has the authority to consider Pakistan’s objections to India’s hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The ruling was unanimous, binding on both parties, and cannot be appealed.
  • The PCA rejected India’s objections to the competence of the CoA as communicated through the World Bank.
India’s Response:
  • India has maintained that it will not participate in the PCA proceedings initiated by Pakistan.
  • India argues that the dispute is already being examined by a neutral expert under the framework of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).
  • The ruling by the PCA adds complexity and uncertainty to the ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan over the hydroelectric projects.
  • It challenges India’s stance and raises questions about the effectiveness and interpretation of the IWT.
  • The implications of the ruling extend beyond the specific dispute and may have an impact on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, particularly concerning water-sharing and cooperation.

Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA):

  • The PCA was established in 1899 and is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • Purpose: It is an intergovernmental organization that serves the international community in the field of dispute resolution, facilitating arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution between States.
  • Organizational Structure:
    • Administrative Council: Oversees policies and budgets of the PCA.
    • Members of the Court: A panel of independent potential arbitrators.
    • International Bureau: Acts as the Secretariat, led by the Secretary-General.
  • Financial Assistance Fund: The PCA has a fund aimed at assisting developing countries in meeting part of the costs involved in international arbitration or other means of dispute settlement provided by the PCA.

-Source: Indian Express

July 2024