New Delhi serves Islamabad notice to modify treaty and wants to meet to start resolving the long-running dispute within 90 days, Reuters reports, citing sources, as arbitration on two Indian projects gets under way at The Hague.
India has asked Pakistan to change a decades-old water-sharing agreement by barring third parties from intervening in disputes, an Indian government source told the Reuters news agency, as an arbitration court began hearing a dispute over two Indian projects on Indus tributaries.
The nuclear-armed neighbours and foes have been arguing over hydroelectric projects on the shared Indus river and its tributaries for many years — a dispute exacerbated by their standoff over disputed Kashmir.
Pakistan is concerned that India's planned hydropower dams will cut flows on the river, which feeds 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture.
Over the years it has asked for a neutral expert and then an arbitration court to intervene.
India has accused Pakistan of dragging out the complaints process, and says the construction of its Kishanganga and Ratle Hydro Electric projects is allowed by the six-decade-old Indus Water Treaty.
An Indian government source said on Friday New Delhi had served Pakistan a notice to modify the treaty and wanted to meet to start resolving the long-running dispute within 90 days.
Asked what modification New Delhi wanted, a second source said: “Whatever small differences that may come up, how they can be resolved without the involvement of any third party, since it is a bilateral treaty. A third party should not be required.”
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
But Pakistani attorney general's office said in a statement the treaty "cannot be unilaterally modified", calling India's attempt "to divert attention from the ongoing proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the Indus Waters Treaty."
It comes as the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a non-UN intergovernmental organisation located in The Hague, began hearing the dispute regarding Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects, Pakistani news site Dawn reported.
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Long surviving treaty
The Indus Water Treaty, put together by the World Bank, was signed in 1960 and has survived wars even though differences over its implementation have arisen frequently.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been frozen since 2019 when New Delhi annexed India-administered Kashmir and ended its limited autonomy. The region is now run directly by New Delhi.
But there have been indications of a thaw this month with Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif calling for talks and India inviting Pakistan's foreign minister to a meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation that it is hosting in May.
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