India wants to keep third parties out of water treaty with Pakistan - sources

By Krishn Kaushik

NEW DELHI ( Reuters) - India has asked Pakistan to change a decades-old water-sharing agreement by barring third parties from intervening in disputes, an Indian government source said, a suggestion likely to rile Islamabad.

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% 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 request for comment.

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 due to tensions over Kashmir.

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 (SCO) that it is hosting in May.

(Reporting by Krishn Kaushik, Editing by Y.P. Rajesh and Andrew Heavens)