WB pauses arbitration in water disputes

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Major departure from IWT

Stresses on attentive ways to resolve differences

Sophia Siddiqui

islamabad

In a major development the World Bank (WB) on Monday announced a pause in arbitration between Islamabad and New Delhi on the matter of two dams being constructed by India urging both the sides to consider alternative ways to resolve their differences.
The WB explained the pause saying: “Both processes initiated by the respective countries were advancing at the same time, creating a risk of contradictory outcomes that could potentially endanger the Treaty.”
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Pakistan and India should look to resolve the conflict mutually and within the bounds of the IWT.
“This is an opportunity for the two countries to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable over time,” he said. “I would hope that the two countries will come to an agreement by the end of January (2017).” “Pausing the process for now, the Bank would hold off from appointing the Chair-man for the Court of Arbitration or the Neutral Expert – appointments that had been expected on December 12 as earlier communi-cated by the Bank,” the WB statement said.
The WB has sent letters to the finance min-isters of Pakistan and India to apprise them of the decision taken to “safeguard the Treaty”.
In the wake of rising cross-border tensions, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in No-vember had threatened to stop honouring the Indus Waters treaty and block the flow of water into Pakistan. India is constructing two hydropower projects on the Chenab River. Pakistan has objected to the construction of the 850MW Ratle and 330MW Kishanganga hydro-power schemes, saying that both projects would have adverse impact on the flow of the Chenab and Nee-lum rivers.
Both countries had initiated separate proc-esses in the WB under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), with India requesting the body for appointment of a ‘Neutral Expert’, and Pakistan calling for the appointment of the chairman of the Court of Arbitration.
Pakistan has acknowledged receiving the WB’s letter with officials in the Finance Ministry saying they have briefed the Minis-try of Water and Power on the matter. The water and power ministry has in turn asked Pakistan’s Commissioner for In-dus Waters Mirza Asif Baig to take the matter of the two dams up with India.
Earlier in November, the WB urged India and Pakistan to agree to mediation in order to settle on a mechanism for how the IWT should be used to resolve issues regarding the construction of the two dams along the Indus river system. The IWT is seen as one of the most suc-cessful international treaties and has with-stood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflicts. The bank is a signatory to the treaty.
The treaty sets out a mechanism for coop-eration and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission which includes a commissioner from each of the two coun-tries. It also sets out a process for resolving so-called “questions”, “differences” and “dis-putes” that may arise between the parties.

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