WB shirking its responsibility

THE World Bank has temporarily stopped playing the role of arbitrator in Pakistan-India water disputes on the plea that the contradictory stance adopted by the two countries might harm the treaty itself. On this plea, the Bank has stopped the processes of appointment of a neutral expert as requested by India and the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration, as requested by Pakistan, to resolve differences over construction by India of Kishenganga and Rattle projects being undertaken by India in violation of Indus Basin Treaty, brokered by the World Bank.
One should not doubt the World Bank President when he says the objective of temporary halt was to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements, hoping that Pakistan and India would do so by the end of January 2017. It is not clear what the WB President meant when he referred to ‘alternative ways’ and on what basis he hopes the two sides would overcome their differences just in about one month. However, Pakistan’s former Indus Commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah has been quoted as saying the move of the WB amounts to accepting the position of New Delhi that is increasingly seeking bilateral resolution to all disputes with Islamabad. Unfortunately, the development comes at a time when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on record his country would stop flow of water into Pakistan and also hinted at abrogating the treaty unilaterally. By asking the WB for appointment of Chairman of the Court of Arbitration, Pakistan only invoked the relevant provisions of the Indus Basin Treaty and there is no plausible reason of denying Pakistan this right. The country approached the World Bank for arbitration after exhausting other options especially failure of attempts to seek redressal of its concerns through bilateral discussions. We believe that the World Bank ought to act as neutral arbiter and intervene strictly in accordance with the provisions of the treaty; otherwise its lacklustre attitude would encourage India to adopt more aggressive posture on the potentially dangerous issue of water sharing.

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