World Bank asks India, Pakistan to sort out long-awaited water dispute ‘bilaterally’

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Srinagar: Suggesting India and Pakistan to sort out the long-awaited water dispute “bilaterally,” the World Bank has expressed its inability to take an independent decision on the appointment of a neutral expert or court of arbitration for the settlement of the issue.

“Both India and Pakistan should come together as to which option to take forward,” a Pakistan based news organization DAWN quoted Patchamuthu Illangovan, the World Bank’s former Country Director of Pakistan, as having said on the completion of his five-year term in Islamabad.

Quoting Illangovan, the report said that Pakistan had made a request for appointment of a Court of Arbitration (COA) while India had sought a neutral expert to resolve their dispute on two hydroelectric projects. This led the World Bank, because of the two conflicting positions under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, to facilitate both India and Pakistan to find ways in resolving the dispute.

“There is no provision in the treaty for the World Bank to take an independent decision,” DAWN quoted Illangovan as saying.

The World Bank’s Country Director for Pakistan made these comment, when he asked if the bank was shying away from its role even though it was part of the 1960 treaty and had been sitting on Pakistan’s request for a COA for almost four years now.

In response to another query that the World Bank had promised to be part of the development works on the Indus basin and yet it had declined to fund the Diamer-Basha Dam, he said that while the bank was supporting other projects on the Indus River like Dasu-1 & Dasu-II, India had raised objections over the Diamer-Basha’s location in a disputed area and that it was not the WB policy to finance disputed projects.

The report added that both the countries are asking about two different options, Islamabad seeks a court of arbitration while Delhi wants a neutral expert

However, Pakistan has been reminding the World Bank since then to recognise its responsibility under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 to address its concerns over two disputed projects — 330MW Kishanganga and 850MW Ratle Hydropower projects — and play its role to ensure that India abide by the provisions of the 1960 treaty while building the projects.

The report added that India had completed the 330MW Kishanganga project during the period the World Bank “paused” the process for constitution of a Court of Arbitration (COA) as requested by Pakistan in early 2016. The Pakistani request was countered by India by calling for a “neutral expert.”

Pakistan had called for resolution of disputes over Kishanganga project on the Neelum river and 850MW Ratle hydropower project on the Chenab.

In December 2016, the bank had announced that it had “paused” the process for either appointing a COA or a neutral expert or started mediation between the two countries on how to advance and develop consensus in the light of the treaty on the mechanism for resolution of faulty designs of the two projects, DAWN reported.

In September 2015, the last round of bank-facilitated and secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan were held in Washington, however, ended with disappointment for the latter.

In this regard, Pakistan had raised a number of objections over the design of the two projects at the level of Permanent Indus Waters Commission almost a decade ago followed by secretary-level talks and then requests for arbitration through the World Bank.


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