9 June 2018

World Bank asks Pakistan to stop pursuing water dispute with India at ICA

Omer Farooq Khan
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ISLAMABAD: The World Bank (WB) has asked Pakistan to stop pursuing the Kishanganga dam dispute in the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) and instead accept India’s offer of appointing a “neutral expert”. The Pakistani daily Dawn reported on Tuesday that the World Bank president Jim Yong Kim had last week advised the government to not take the matter to the ICA. Incidentally, the bank had on November 10, 2016 even picked a US chief justice, the rector of Imperial College, London, and the WB president to appoint a chairman of the court to resolve the dispute over the dam. Pakistan had opposed the construction of Kishanganga dam + , considering it a violation of a World Bank-mediated treaty on the sharing of waters from the Indus and its tributaries. New Delhi believes that the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) allows it to build ‘run-of-river’ hydel projects that do not change the course of the river and do not deplete the water level downstream.

Islamabad, however, disputes New Delhi’s interpretation, arguing that the Kishanganga project not only violates the course of the river but also depletes its water level.

While Pakistan wants the dispute to be referred to the ICA, India describes it an issue of bilateral differences over the design of the dam which can be addressed by some neutral experts.

“Pakistan believed that acceding to India’s proposal of referring the dispute to neutral experts or withdrawing from its stand would mean closing the doors of arbitration and surrendering its right of raising disputes before international courts. It will become a precedent and every time a dispute emerges between Pakistan and India, the latter will always opt for dispute resolution through neutral experts,” the report said, quoting a source privy to the development.

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In December 2016, the WB president had informed the then Pakistani finance minister Ishaq Dar + through a letter that he had decided to “pause” the process of appointing the ICA chairman as well as the neutral expert.

At this, Dar had lodged a strong protest with the WB and had asked the bank to play its due role in the matter.

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Pakistan believes that on the one hand the WB has tied its hands from raising the dispute at the ICA, and on the other, it has not blocked the Indian effort to complete the construction of the dam.

In February last year, the WB further extended its halt until the secretary-level talks between the two countries bore some fruit. Subsequently, four rounds of talks were held in February, April, July and September in Washington in which the bank was willing to appoint an international court to pick between the two options. “But India did not accept it,” the source said. The WB even declined Pakistan’s plea on May 22, 2018.

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