Indus waters talks are set to resume in Lahore on March 19-20. After the months of tension that followed the Uri militant attack in Jammu & Kashmir last year, any bilateral dialogue is cause for optimism. But how relieved should we feel?
The talks are not a political dialogue. Instead, it is between India and Pakistan’s members of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC). The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 created this body to ensure that both governments adhere to the treaty’s terms.
The PIC has resolved numerous issues, including ones with potential to escalate into serious tensions. In 1969, for instance, its joint inspection of Indian defensive ditches in Punjab allayed Pakistani fears that they were designed to flood Pakistani territory. When the PIC cannot mediate effectively, external dispute resolution is sought—as was done recently over the Baglihar Dam and Kishenganga Project.