May 24, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — The World Bank is holding talks with a Pakistani delegation in the US capital for an amicable resolution of its water dispute with India by seeking opportunities and alternative approaches within the Indus Water Treaty framework.
A four-member Pakistani delegation, headed by Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali, arrived in Washington on Sunday, a day after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 330MW dam in India-held Kashmir, which Pakistan fears will reduce its share in the waters of the Indus and its tributaries.
The river system feeding both countries comprises three western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — and three eastern rivers — the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi.
The 1960 Indus Waters Treaty gives Pakistan exclusive use of the western rivers, the Jhelum, Chenab and Indus, while the eastern rivers — Ravi, Beas and Sutlej — go to India.
The Kishanganga dam built by India on river Neelum, which is a tributary of the Jhelum river has become controversial after Pakistan raised objections under the Treaty.
Under the treaty, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on the rivers concerned, subject to constraints specified in annexes to the treaty.
Pakistan maintains the dam construction violates the treaty, and seeks to energize the arbitration mechanisms that exist within the IWT.
Back in August 2016, Pakistan asked the World Bank to appoint a court of arbitration to review the designs of Kishanganga and another project on the Chenab, called Ratle. India rejected the suggestion, saying that Pakistan’s objections were technical in nature and that the matter should be decided by a neutral expert.
Pakistan disagreed, arguing that a decision by a technical expert was non-binding and India would be under no obligation to implement the expert’s recommendation.
In December 2016, the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim paused the process of negotiation to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolve their dispute over the two hydroelectric plants.
“We are announcing this pause to protect the Indus Waters Treaty,” he had said.
“The meetings are discussing concerns raised by the Pakistan delegation and opportunities within the treaty to seek an amicable resolution,” a World Bank spokesperson told media on Monday.
Both Pakistan and India have stayed engaged with the multilateral lending institution over the last 70 years, seeking its assistance whenever they had a dispute over the interpretation of the treaty.
While explaining why it was important to protect the treaty, the World Bank said it had “survived frequent tensions, including conflict, and has provided a framework for irrigation and hydropower development for more than half a century”.