Lahore: India and Pakistan were unable to reach an agreement on the crucial issue of the Indus Waters Treaty at the most recent round of talks in Washington at the World Bank Headquarters on September 14-15.
Pakistan has requested the World Bank to fulfill its duties to establish the Court of Arbitration to decide the ongoing Indo-Pak Indus Water Treaty dispute.
The delegations of India and Pakistan met to discuss the way forward in disputes pursuant to the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960, concerning India’s plans to build Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric plants.
Earlier, secretary level talks failed when both countries were unable to decide on a choice of forum for settlement of the disputes, leading to an impasse.
On August 16, 2016, Pakistan, after raising objections on India’s plans in the Permanent Indus Commission for over a decade, requested the World Bank to set up a Court of Arbitration as provided in the Indus Waters Treaty. Subsequently, on October 4, 2016, India made a request for the appointment of Neutral Expert to adjudicate the same disputes.
Initially, the World Bank agreed to setting up both fora but later ‘paused’ both processes to establish the Court of Arbitration and appoint a neutral expert to help mediate in conflicting rulings.
In an effort to resolve the impasse, the World Bank then invited the secretaries for Ministries of Water Resources of both countries to consultations. In the first round of consultations, held in Washington DC between July 31 – August 1, 2017, Pakistan proposed amendments to Indian designs that would make the project Treaty compliant. India agreed on studying those designs and the parties decided to meet again in September 2017.
The Pakistani delegation was led by Secretary Water Resources Division Arif Ahmed Khan along with Secretary of Water and Power Yousuf Naseem Khokhar, High Commissioner of Indus Waters Treaty Mirza Asif Baig and Joint Secretary of Water Syed Mehar Ali Shah.
The Indian delegation was led by the Union Water Resources Secretary Amarjit Singh. It also had representatives from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Power, India’s Indus Water Commissioner and Central Water Commission.
In the latest round of discussions, 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.
While acknowledging the Bank’s continued efforts, Pakistan has now requested the World Bank to fulfill its duties under the Treaty by impaneling the Court of Arbitration.
Sources told The Express Tribune that despite the passage of more than one year, the World Bank has yet to establish the court of arbitration, adding that an Indian lobby has influenced the Bank to stop playing an active role in this matter.
The World Bank, however, assured that both countries will continue to work to solve pressing concerns in a good-natured manner. “While an agreement has not been reached at the conclusion of the meetings, the World Bank will continue to work with both countries to resolve the issues in an amicable manner and in line with the Treaty provisions.”
“The World 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 Bank said in its statement.
The IWT was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory.