May 2005 News

Baglihar And Kishan Ganga

13 May 2005
The News International

Islamabad: With a settlement over Baglihar Dam already long overdue, Pakistan and India appear to be going nowhere in their bid to resolve their differences over the 330MW Kishan Ganga Hydro Power Dam being constructed in Indian-controlled Kashmir and said to be in its initial stages. The second round of commissioner-level talks on the issue concluded in Lahore on Tuesday without any forward movement, but with promises of more meetings. The earlier round of talks in New Delhi also did not help the two countries narrow down their divergence of views. Pakistan holds that the dam will divert the water to India in violation of the provisions of the Indus Basin Treaty, but India disagrees. In case of failure, Pakistan retains, under the provision of the treaty, the option of taking up the issue with neutral experts, to be appointed either by the two governments or by the World Bank. Islamabad has already indicated that it will invoke the third-party provision of the treaty in case of the failure of the next round. While the water dispute settlement mechanism exists in the treaty, it is unfortunate that the two governments lack the capacity to end their bickering bilaterally. It seems that the officials of the two countries either have run out of options or have developed such rigidity that they are unable to agree on a single point. Such an attitude guided by either standard operational procedures or their institutional approach essentially foils the positive atmosphere created by the political leadership. Flexibility is required to resolve issues - a quality that seems to be missing in the self-righteous bureaucrats on both sides. It is essential that the leaders of both countries ensure that their commitments of friendship are translated into action. Small procedural glitches must not be allowed to spoil the environment of congeniality that has been created. If the two countries have to go for third-party mediation on the smallest of disputes, how will they resolve more controversial territorial issues that come up for serious discussion? These smaller disputes should be utilised to build the kind of confidence that is required to settle contentious issues, which involves a lot of give and take in order to do this. The two governments ought to address these smaller issues promptly, as failures will lead to public disillusionment about the possibility of the permanent resolution of Indo-Pakistani disputes, a disillusionment that may hurt the ongoing confidence-building measures.

 

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