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

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.

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.

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 World Bank even declined Pakistan’s forceful plea on May 22, 2018, asking it to express concern by stating that it had “noted the inauguration of the Kishanganga Dam by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, the source added.

The 1960 treaty recognises the World Bank as an arbitrator in water disputes between India and Pakistan as the bank played a key role in concluding this agreement which allows India to have control over the water flowing into three eastern rivers — Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — also permitting India that it may use the water of western rivers — Chenab, Jhelum and Indus — but it cannot divert the same.

India considers this as a permission to build “run-of-the-river” hydel projects that neither change the course of the river nor deplete the water level downstream.

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.