ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has warned a brewing row with India over the waters of the Chenab river in the disputed Kashmir region could harm improving ties between the old rivals.
The warning came two days after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated a 450-megawatt hydro power project at Baglihar dam on the Chenab, which flows from the Indian side to the Pakistani side of Kashmir.
“Pakistan would be paying a very high price for India’s move to block Pakistan’s water supply from the Chenab River,” the official Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Zardari as saying in a statement late on Sunday.
“Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured me in our meeting in New York that his country is seriously committed to our water sharing treaty,” he said, referring to their meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly last month.
“We expect him to stand by his commitment.”
Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947 and came close to a fourth in 2002, but relations improved after they launched a peace process in early 2004.
Pakistani newspapers reported last week that India had blocked water from the Chenab river, which raised Pakistani concerns about water availability for crops.
Zardari warned that violation of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty “would damage the bilateral ties the two countries had built over the years.”
Under the accord, each country controls more than three rivers draining into the Indus river basin.
India has rejected Pakistan’s contention that the Baglihar dam reduces the flow of water and says the project is crucial for power-starved Kashmir.
A World Bank team of experts conducted an inquiry into the dispute in 2005 but did not make its findings public.
Pakistan’s water commissioner is due to go to New Delhi on Tuesday for discussions, officials said.