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World Bank’s verdict on water issue arbitration likely by month-end

Updated Jan 11, 2017 10:27am

LAHORE: Pakistan expects that the World Bank (WB) will take a decision by the end of this month on a request it submitted to the bank’s envoy in Dubai for restarting the process of arbitration to resolve the issue of construction of two hydroelectric plants — the Kishanganga and Ratle projects — by India allegedly in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty.

Through official correspondence and communications, Islamabad continues to demand restarting the arbitration process after the WB announced a pause last month on the separate proceedings of appointing a chairman for the court of arbitration and a neutral expert, initiated on the request of Pakistan and India, respectively. The bank has urged the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.

“On January 7, we held a meeting with an envoy of the World Bank’s president in Dubai. During the meeting, we told the WB representative that the bank should not have announced a pause in the arbitration process. And finally we demanded that the bank should restart the process for the appointment of chairman of the court of arbitration,” remarked a senior official said to be abreast of the latest developments in this regard.

After announcement of a halt in the processes, the two countries contacted each other in a bid to reach a resolution through talks or other means, but they couldn’t do so because they continued to stick to their stances.

“India wanted to resume talks on the level of Indus water commissioners, representing both the countries, or through appointment of a neutral expert. And we wanted that resumption of such talks should lead to constitution of the court of arbitration that may look into the case in depth legally as well as technically,” said the official.

At the Jan 7 meeting in Dubai, he said, Pakistan’s delegation apprised the WB’s envoy of its case, arguing that initiation of the process of setting up of the two forums (court of arbitration and the neutral expert) wouldn’t resolve the issue, as the only proper way was for the court of arbitration to decide the case after going through it legally and technically.

“We have briefed the envoy about our case well, [providing him] with the facts, merit, relevant provisions in the treaty, etc. We believe that our case is very strong in view of legal and technical aspects. And we expect a decision on merit from the WB by the end of this month,” the official said.

According to him, Pakistan would continue its efforts for constitution of the court of arbitration to resolve the issue.

Published in Dawn January 11th, 2017