Pact under pressure

Pact under pressure A controversy over the design of the Baglihar hydroelectric project on Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir is threatening to plunge the already strained ties between India and Pakistan into crisis. The row has put the 43-year-old bilateral Indus Water Treaty (iwt) to its severest test to date. After the failure of the February talks in Islamabad, Pakistan is now planning to seek India's concurrence for the appointment of a neutral expert under the aegis of the World Bank to resolve the tangle over the 450 mega watt dam.

International arbitration is the last resort envisaged under the iwt. If Pakistan carries out its threat, it would be the first time in the history of the treaty that the two countries would not have been able to bilaterally resolve a dispute. Officials in Pakistan's ministry of water and power say Islamabad is opting for World Bank mediation, as it is also the guarantor of the treaty. "In case India disagrees with our proposal, we retain the right to seek arbitration by the International Court of Justice,' one official said.

But India's Union water resources ministry says that no communication has been received from Pakistan. "Their apprehensions have no basis and our construction parameters are as per the treaty,' a ministry official said, further adding that India has not violated any provision.

Under the iwt signed in 1960, Pakistan has unrestricted rights over the western tributaries of the Indus River System

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