World Bank halts arbitration on dams between Pakistan and India
By Sohail Iqbal Bhatti
13 December 2016

ISLAMABAD (Dawn/ANN) - The World Bank has sent letters to the finance ministers of Pakistan and India to apprise them of the decision to halt the arbitration process between New Delhi and Islamabad with regard to the two dams being constructed by India.

The World Bank (WB) has halted the process of arbitration between Islamabad and New Delhi on the matter of the two dams being constructed by India, a press release issued by the institution said. 

The World Bank says the decision has been made to give the two countries a chance to come up with an alternative solution to their problem in accordance with Indus Water Treaty (IWT) by January 2017.

The pause affects India's request to the World Bank for the appointment of a neutral expert as well as Pakistan's request for appointing a chairman of the court of arbitration. 

The appointments were meant to help resolve issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India along the Indus River system. 

The requests were initiated by Islamabad and New Delhi at the same time and were being processed simultaneously. 

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has now revealed that Pakistan and India should look to resolve the conflict mutually and within the bounds of the IWT, as seeking a solution outside of the treaty would endanger it.  

The WB sent letters to the finance ministers of Pakistan and India to apprise them of the decision. 

Pakistan has acknowledged receiving the WB's letter with officials in the Finance Ministry saying they have briefed the Ministry of Water and Power on the matter.

The water and power ministry has in turn asked Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Mirza Asif Baig to take the matter of the two dams up with India. 

Earlier in November, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had threatened to stop honouring the IWT and block the flow of water into Pakistan. 

Also in November, the WB had urged India and Pakistan to agree to mediation in order to settle on a mechanism for how the IWT should be used to resolve issues regarding the construction of the two dams along the Indus river system.

The WB made the appeal as it told the two countries it was responding to their separate proceedings initiated under the IWT.

Earlier this year, Pakistan had objected to the construction and design of the 850MW Ratle and 330MW Kishanganga hydropower schemes, saying that both projects would have adverse impact on the flow of the Chenab and Neelum rivers. 

The two projects are being constructed by India on the Chenab River, downstream of the village of Ratle in Doda District, and the Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River downstream in Pakistan) near Bandipur in held Jammu and Kashmir, respectively.

The IWT is seen as one of the most successful international treaties and has withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflicts. The bank is a signatory to the treaty.

The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission which includes a commissioner from each of the two countries. It also sets out a process for resolving so-called 'questions, differences and disputes' that may arise between the parties.

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