By Krishn Kaushik
NEWDELHI – - The World Bank said its decision to allow two separate proceedings to resolve a long-running disagreement over water between India and Pakistan to run in parallel was because it feared the stalemate endangered the historic Indus Water Treaty.
The comments from a World Bank spokesman were provided to Reuters by email and were the first explanation as to why it had resumed parallel proceedings after suspending them in 2016.
“The World Bank considers that the lack of success in finding an acceptable solution, despite the best of efforts by all Parties involved over the past years, is a risk to the Treaty itself,” the spokesperson said.
“It has therefore decided to resume the two separate processes requested by India and Pakistan.”
To solve the dispute, India has suggested the appointment of a neutral expert, while Pakistan is seeking resolution through proceedings in the Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which began on Jan. 27.
The South Asian neighbours have been arguing over hydroelectric projects on the shared Indus river and its tributaries for decades.
Pakistan complains that India’s planned hydropower dams will cut flows on the river, which feeds 80% of its irrigated agriculture.
India has accused Pakistan of dragging out the complaints process since 2015 and says the construction of its Kishanganga and Ratle Hydro Electric projects is allowed by the treaty.
India has boycotted The Hague court proceedings and on Jan. 25 sent a notice to Islamabad asking it to agree to modify the 1960 treaty, put together by the World Bank, to bar third parties from intervening in disputes.
“The treaty has been a profoundly important international agreement in support of peace and development for South Asia … its preservation has been among the World Bank’s highest priorities,” the bank spokesperson said.
“According to international law, a treaty may be amended by agreement between the parties.”
Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday that India had asked Pakistan to notify a suitable date to start talks to modify the treaty.
Pakistan’s attorney general’s office said on Jan. 27 that the treaty cannot be unilaterally modified and that India was trying to divert attention from proceedings of the Court of Arbitration.
The World Bank had said in 2016 the two separate approaches to resolving the water issue risked producing contradictory outcomes.