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April 25, 2018

World Bank working to safeguard Indus Waters Treaty: official


April 25, 2018

LAHORE: The World Bank continues to work with both Pakistan and India to resolve the most recent disagreement over dispute resolution mechanism under the Indus Waters Treaty in an amicable manner and with an aim to safeguard the Treaty, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

“The Treaty is a profoundly important international agreement that provides an essential cooperative framework for India and Pakistan to address current and future challenges of effective water management to meet human needs and achieve development goals,” the official said in a response to an emailed query about the issue.

The World Bank engagement process that has been initiated in late 2016 to resolve differences between Pakistan and India over water infrastructure projects in line with provisions of Indus Waters Treaty has yet to be completed.

The source further said as far as Pakistan's point of view is concerned this issue is very important.

“Owing to an impasse on resolving differences on dispute resolution mechanism, Kishanganga Hydro-power Projects has already been completed by India,” the source said and added on account of a lack of time-bound approach in the mediation process, this trans-boundary issue is lingering on without any progress.

The source also observed the current process involving implementation of Indus Waters Treaty between Pakistan and India has been stalled since late 2016 and there was no light at the end of the tunnel due to lingering difference on dispute resolution mechanism.

Many believe that World Bank should take the blame for failure in making headway on mediation front or at least identify and explain real reasons behind the roadblock.

A World Bank document, released in August last year, said the present disagreement between India and Pakistan has been about the construction of the 33 megawatt Kishenganga and 850 megawatt Ratle hydroelectric power plants being built by India in Occupied Kashmir.

The two countries disagree over whether the technical design features of the two projects contravene the Treaty.

The plants are on respectively a tributary of the Jhelum and the Chenab Rivers. The Treaty designates these two rivers as well as the Indus as the “Western Rivers” to which Pakistan has unrestricted use.

Talks related to the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants are ongoing.

However, a deadlock emerged in the talks as both countries sought different dispute resolution mechanisms for resolving the issue.

Seeing an impasse, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on December 12, 2016 announced that the Bank would pause before taking further steps in each of the two processes requested by the parties.

Both India and Pakistan stated that processing the requests regarding the Neutral Expert and Court of Arbitration simultaneously presented a substantial threat to the Treaty, since it risked contradictory outcomes and worked against the spirit of goodwill and friendship that underpins the Treaty.

The announcement by the Bank to pause the processes was taken to protect the Treaty in the interests of both countries. This pause is still in effect.