LAHORE/ISLAMABAD - Following the World Bank announcement declaring pause in mediation on controversial power projects, Pakistan will approach India yet again to sort out the issue, The Nation has learnt.

Official sources said Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner would establish a telephonic contact with his Indian counterpart till the end of this month and ask him to address Islamabad’s concerns on the design of Ratle and Kishanganga projects.

“Pakistan will again approach World Bank in February if India refuses to accept our demands for change in design of the projects or tries to use delaying tactics,” the sources said.

Islamabad on September 27 approached the World Bank against construction of two dams on Chenab and Jhelum rivers by India and sought formation of court of arbitration on the matter. India, on the other hand, had desired the appointment of a single neutral expert for mediation.

The World Bank, being a guarantor of the treaty, had earlier declared the formation of court and appointment of neutral expert, but ironically it announced a “pause” in the separate processes initiated by Pakistan and India to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.

It is important to note that Islamabad had welcomed the World Bank’s earlier announcement for both the formation of arbitration court and appointment of neutral expert, but then Delhi clearly refused to be part of the arbitration.

Monday’s press release of the bank asked both the countries to find alternative ways to resolve the issue.

The World Bank declared that it temporarily halted the appointment of a neutral expert as requested by India and the chairman of the Court of Arbitration as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India on the Indus River system. Both the processes initiated by the respective countries were advancing at the same time, creating a risk of contradictory outcomes that could potentially endanger the treaty, it added.

“We are announcing this pause to protect the treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolve conflicting interests under it and its application to two hydroelectric power plants,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “This is an opportunity for the two countries to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable. I hope the two countries will come to an agreement by the end of January.”

The pause was announced by Kim in letters to finance ministers of India and Pakistan and emphasised the bank was acting to safeguard the treaty. The bank would hold off appointment of the chairman for the Court of Arbitration or the neutral expert – the appointments that were expected on December 12 as earlier communicated by it.

The World Bank president said Pakistan and India should consider resolving the conflict mutually and within the bounds of the Indus Water Treaty.

“This is an opportunity for the two countries to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable over time,” he said. “I hope the two countries will come to an agreement by the end of January 2017.”

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

Though some private experts call the fresh announcement has been made under India’s pressure, a government official, however, said Islamabad never questioned the Bank’s intention.

“We have decided in principle to re-approach India, but will not compromise our position. We also fear India will not change the design of projects according to the treaty,” the official told The Nation, seeking anonymity.

The Indus Water commissioner of Pakistan in August 2015 had raised serious objections to the designs of Ratle (850MW) and Kishanganga (330MW) hydropower projects being constructed by India at the Chenab and Jhelum rivers, respectively, in occupied region of Jammu and Kashmir. According to Pakistan’s Commission, India was constructing the dams in violation of the treaty that ensured a fair division of river water resources between the upper riparian India and the lower riparian Pakistan.

The Pakistan Commission had been repeatedly requesting India for more than a year to address its concerns and stop constructing dams in violation of the treaty. Keeping in mind New Delhi’s track record, Islamabad approached the World Bank in September 2016 and called for the formation of court of arbitration on the projects. The bank is a signatory to the treaty.

Though IWT is seen as one of the most successful international treaties, India has always tried to violate it. Recently, its hostile attitude towards the treaty reached at a level that the Indian prime minister even hinted at revoke it, a statement which Pakistan clearly called an act of war.

Reports say India has planned generating 22,000MW from the rivers in IOK. It has so far built Dalhasti hydropower project of 330MW, Baglihar of 450MW and now it is about to complete Kishanganga, while work on Ratle project too has been started.

On the River Neelum India has completed Uri-1 and Uri-II projects. It has also built Nimmo Bazgo and Chattak projects in IOK.

Pakistan had also raised concern over the design of Pakal Dul (1,000MW), Miyar (120MW) and Lower Kalnai (48MW) projects being built by India on the River Chenab.

 

 

Pakistan to approach India on World Bank’s call