IWT: World Bank expresses inability to appoint neutral expert or Court of Arbitration

Islamabad: The World Bank has expressed its inability to take an independent decision on the appointment of a neutral expert or a Court of Arbitration for the settlement of a long-pending water dispute between India and Pakistan, saying the two countries will have to bilaterally choose one option, a media report here said on Saturday.

India and Pakistan signed the treaty in 1960 after nine years of negotiations, with the Washington-based World Bank being a signatory.

The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers. However, there have been disagreements and differences between India and Pakistan over the treaty.

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“Both India and Pakistan should come together as to which option to take forward, Patchamuthu Illangovan, the World Bank’s former Country Director of Pakistan, was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper on completion of his five-year term in Islamabad.

Pakistan had made a request for the appointment of a Court of Arbitration (COA) while India had sought a neutral expert to resolve the dispute on two hydroelectric projects, he said.

Due to the two conflicting positions under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, the bank was facilitating the two governments to find ways in resolving their differences and move forward, Illangovan said.

Asked if the bank was shying away from its role even though it was part of the treaty and had been sitting on Pakistan’s request for a COA for almost four years now, he said: There is no provision in the treaty for the World Bank to take an independent decision .

When asked about bank’s reluctance to fund the Diamer-Basha Dam, Illangovan said that while the bank was supporting other projects on the Indus river like Dasu-1 and Dasu-II, India had raised objections over the Diamer-Basha’s location in a disputed area (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) and that it was not the bank’s policy to finance disputed projects.

Pakistan had called for the resolution of disputes over the 330MW Kishanganga project on the Neelum river and 850MW Ratle Hydropower project on the Chenab river.

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

The last round of bank-facilitated and secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan were held in Washington in September 2015 which ended in the disappointment for Islamabad. Pakistan 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 bank.

Under the treaty, in case the parties fail to resolve disputes through bilateral means, the aggrieved party has the option to invoke the jurisdiction of the International Court of Arbitration or the neutral expert under the auspices of bank.

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