Later this month, an Indian delegation will travel to Pakistan for talks under the aegis of the Permanent Indus Commission. This commission was set up following the Indus Waters Treaty (1960), signed by India and Pakistan with the cooperation of the World Bank. Some have interpreted the Indian government’s decision to agree to the meeting of the commission as a softening of its approach on the Indus waters in particular and Pakistan in general. They have already started reading it as a “foreign policy shift” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Is such breathtaking analysis warranted? That the meeting of the commission is taking place is welcome news. Yet, the fact is differences on the functioning of the treaty continue. Specifically, Pakistan’s veto on allowing India to build water projects that India says are within the ambit of the treaty continues to rankle in New Delhi. The decision to go ahead with the talks does not change that.
Of course, neither does this mean precipitous action is necessary. Even if India were to ignore those Pakistani objections and go ahead with the projects, these would take years to build. As such, one expects this story is far from over. Since India’s Pakistan policy is now inextricably linked to its China policy, one also expects India will wait for what Beijing does or doesn’t do in the coming months before making its moves vis-à-vis Islamabad. Read More…