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April 8, 2017

World Bank plans parley to resolve Pakistan-India water disputes


April 8, 2017

LAHORE: The World Bank’s officials are in contact with the Pakistani and Indian authorities to work out an agenda of a meeting, possibly starting this month in US, to resolve the perennial water disputes between India and Pakistan under the Bank’s meditation, a senior official said on Friday.

The official said the World Bank’s management is finalising the modalities, in consultation with both the countries, of the proposed meeting under a dispute resolution mechanism of the Indus Waters Treaty.

“The World Bank-hosted meeting is proposed to be held in Washington DC after a week starting from 10 April,” said the official privy to the correspondence. “Both Pakistan and India have been invited to take part in this meeting. Dates and other modalities are being finalised.”

The World Bank-mediated parleys are aimed at ironing out the differences over the dispute resolution mechanism for Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects, being built by India.

The official confirmed that the proposed negotiation process got delayed. “But, it is very much on track,” he said.

He added that after January 31, India and Pakistan was bound to take a course of action to resolve a dispute under the guidance of the World Bank. “However, the process was delayed due to multiple factors.” 

The official said there have, however, been several encouraging developments as far as the implementation of Indus Waters Treaty is concerned. 

The two high-profile visits of the Bank’s officials to India and Pakistan in the past couple of months and a subsequent Pakistan-India annual meeting of the Permanent Indus Waters Commission in Islamabad are ‘directly or indirectly’ important events and welcoming developments, he added.

In March, the Indus water commissioners of India and Pakistan held a 113th Permanent Indus Commission meeting in Islamabad, resuming the stalled talks on the water conflict under the 1960 treaty.

Sources said several other options are also being considered to accelerate the dispute resolution mechanism, which was invoked by Pakistan at the World Bank’s forum over the objections raised on Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects.

A World Bank’s fact sheet said Pakistan and India have disagreement on the construction of the Kishanganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plants. The discords are on the projects’ technical design features, which contravene the Treaty. 

The plants are on tributaries of Jhelum and Chenab Rivers. The Treaty designates these two rivers and Indus River as the western rivers on which Pakistan has an unrestricted use. Among other uses, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers, subject to constraints specified in the Treaty.

The Bank’s factsheet said Pakistan had asked the World Bank to facilitate an establishment of a court of arbitration to look into its concerns about the designs of the two hydroelectric power plants. India, on the other hand, asked for the appointment of a neutral expert for the same purpose. 

The World Bank said it encouraged both the countries to reach an agreement on a mechanism to address the issue. It is also assisting the two parties to strike an agreement on the process of resolving the issue. Generally, the Bank works with them to ensure that the Treaty remains an effective tool to manage the use of Indus Basin Rivers.


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