Friday, November 11th, 2016

World Bank decisions on Indus Water Treaty surprise India

Swati Deb | November 11, 2016 10:03 am Print
The World Bank, which has a specific role in resolution of disputes, on the project took a surprising decision to appoint a Neutral Expert, as sought by India and at the same time set up a Court of Arbitration as wanted by Pakistan.
Left surprised after the World Bank took cognizance of complaints from both India and Pakistan on Indus Water Treaty, the Indian government has taken exceptions to the World Bank’s “legally untenable action” and  “inexplicable” decision while dealing with Indo-Pak differences on Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects.
The World Bank, which has a specific role in resolution of disputes, on the project took a surprising decision to appoint a Neutral Expert, as sought by India and at the same time set up a Court of Arbitration as wanted by Pakistan.
“Inexplicably, the World Bank has decided to continue to proceed with (these) two parallel mechanisms simultaneously. India cannot be party to actions which are not in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty,” Vikas Swarup, External Affairs  spokesman, said in a statement on Thursday night.
On September 26, 2016, aftermath Uri attack wherein 19 Indian soldiers were martyred, the central government at a high-level meeting presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to “review” the suspension of construction on the Tulbul navigation project under Indus Water treaty.
Under the Treaty,  signed between India and Pakistan and also the World Bank in 1960, the World Bank has a specified role in the process of resolution of differences and disputes.
 On the issue of “differences” between India and Pakistan on Kishenganga and Ratle Hydroelectric Projects under the Indus Waters Treaty, India had asked the World Bank to appoint a Neutral Expert to resolve the differences of a technical nature which are within the domain of a neutral technical expert, Swarup said. On the other hand, “Pakistan had sought the establishment of a Court of Arbitration, which is normally the logical next step in the process of resolution in the Treaty”.
The Neutral Expert can also determine that there are issues beyond mere technical differences, he said.
Swarup said the World Bank has “decided to proceed with both steps simultaneously” and thus it was pointed by the government of India to the World Bank that the pursuit of two parallel dispute resolution mechanisms – appointment of a Neutral Expert and establishment of a Court of Arbitration – at the same time is “legally untenable”.
Thus, he maintained that “the government will examine further options and take steps accordingly”.
India had started constructing a 439 feet long and 40 feet wide barrage at the mouth of the lake to ensure the flow of water in winter to 4000 cusecs.
 India had taken up a major construction works to control water flow but Pakistan had expressed fears in 1985-86 that improving the navigation in the lake would be to India’s advantage due to geographical factors and India’s location.
 Islamabad feared since 1980s that if a dam — which it calls as Wallur Barrage – was built up, India would be able to create and control the “flow of water” into the Jhelum and that can often result in drought and flood situations “at will” in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir.
India instead maintained that this would be a economic game-changer and help people in north Kashmir.
India started the work around 1984 on the river Jhelum but after Pakistan threatened to move International Arbitral Court in 1986, Indian government decided to suspend the work in 1987.
Swati Deb
(The writer is a freelance journalist)
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