World Bank pushes for mediation as India and Pakistan battle over Indus Water Treaty

The World Bank is urging India and Pakistan to agree to mediation regarding the Indus Water Treaty, following an announcement by India earlier this week that it would boycott a Court of Arbitration requested by Pakistan.

The 1960 agreement has been the source of significant controversy as Pakistan and India race to complete hydropower projects on shared waterways — notably the 969-MW Neelum Jhelum in Pakistan, and 330-MW Kishenganga and 840-MW Ratle in India — since the country that completes their projects first would, per terms of the treaty, have priority rights to the river.

The World Bank not only granted Pakistan’s request to set up a Court of Arbitration, but also appointed a neutral expert to investigate its complaint.

The Indian government issued a strongly-worded response, saying, “inexplicably, the World Bank has decided to continue to proceed with these two parallel mechanisms simultaneously” before announcing its intention to abstain from what it calls “actions which are not in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty.”

Much of India’s grievance seems to stem from what it perceives as a failure by the World Bank to follow proper procedures dictated by the treaty.

Per the accord, the bilateral Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) should have first worked to resolve the countries’ differences, after which point either party could then motion for a neutral expert. The neutral expert could then call for a Court of Arbitration.

Though seemingly at a deadlock now, the World Bank has urged the countries to agree to mediation.

Pakistan previously lost a challenge considered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in February 2013, at which point it said Kishanganga might reduce the capacity of its Neelum-Jhelum plant by diverting water.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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