Pakistan has asked the World Bank to constitute a court of arbitration to settle its Indus Water Treaty dispute as New Delhi and Islamabad failed to break the impasse on choice of a forum for settling the issue. The World Bank hosted the secretary-level discussions between India and Pakistan at the bank’s headquarters in Washington over the Indus Water Treaty talks, which ended on Saturday without an agreement.
“India not only refused to accept any of the amendments proposed by Pakistan, but also refused to agree to any of the dispute settlement options proposed by the World Bank,” the Dawn quoted an official, as saying. “While acknowledging the Bank’s continued efforts, Pakistan has now requested the World Bank to fulfil its duties under the (Indus Water Treaty) by empanelling the Court of Arbitration,” the source added.
While an agreement has not been reached at the conclusion of the meetings, “the World Bank reaffirmed its commitment to continue to work with both countries to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the treaty provisions,” the bank statement said.
The World Bank noted that both countries “reconfirmed their commitment to the preservation of the Treaty”. The bank “remains committed to act in good faith and with complete impartiality and transparency in fulfilling its responsibilities under the Treaty, while continuing to assist the countries”, the statement added. The secretary-level talks took place on Sept 14-15 at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, within the framework of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). Concluded in 1960 with the World Bank’s support, the treaty recognises the bank as a mediator.
In the last two months, the World Bank hosted two rounds of IWT talks. In the first round, which concluded on August 1, India and Pakistan exchanged proposals. India is permitted to construct the Kishenganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plants on Jhelum and the Chenab rivers as specified in the Indus Water Treaty . Both the countries returned to Washington this week for the second round, which focussed on the technical issues of two hydroelectric plants – Kishanganga and Ratle – that India is building on the tributaries of the Jhelum and the Chenab.
But Pakistan has opposed whether the technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants contravene the treaty. Pakistan believes the construction violates the Indus Water Treaty, which gives Islamabad the right of “unrestricted use” of the waters of these two western rivers in the Indus system. India, however, argues that the treaty also allows “other uses”, including the construction of hydroelectric plants. India interprets “other uses” as meaning that it can not only construct the Kishanganga and Ratle dams, but also several other projects.
Pakistan disagrees with the Indian interpretation and has asked the World Bank to set up a court of arbitration; saying that India was not fulfilling its obligations as an upper riparian state. India opposes the court of arbitration and has instead asked the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert to look into the matter. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim had announced in December 2016 that the World Bank would pause before taking further steps in each of the two processes requested by the parties. Since December 2016, the World Bank has worked towards an amicable resolution of the matter and to safeguard the treaty.