The World Bank’s (WB) decision to hold off on the mediation efforts between India and Pakistan regarding the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) is not likely to lead to bilateral dialogue with a potential resolution of this, and other (Kashmir, LoC violations etc) outstanding issues. Both countries must be willing to find a way to work with each other, but the Modi government’s hostile stance is not going to change simply because WB asked nicely. Other countries and international organisations have already made the same plea, which has essentially fallen on deaf ears.

WB has been mentioned directly as the arbitrator of the treaty should issues arise, which is why asking both countries to smooth things is over is a dereliction of duty on the World Bank’s part. Taking a diplomatic role for a body that is supposed to mediate is of no use to either country. One can only wonder if WB would take the same non-interference stance if the roles had been reversed and Pakistan had been the upper riparian state.

India stands at number four on the list of global top spenders in the defence sector, only behind the US, Russia and China currently, out-spending other major powers. And while its ambitions to become a global power are a constant thought, the Indian guns are mostly pointing in Pakistan’s direction, and that is not likely to change in the near future. There is also the lingering question of how long China will stand in the way of India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) when all others are vying for its inclusion. At the very least, Pakistan’s and China’s efforts have led the NSG to consider using a criteria-based approach for membership, instead of waving away

Ultimately all outstanding issues will only be overcome if bilateral discussions take precedence. India’s government has so far refused to communicate without mud-slinging or throwing baseless accusations this way. India’s decision to oppose everything Pakistan-related is clear from its opposition to CPEC. Whatever else, Pakistan at least, does not begrudge its eastern neighbour any developmental progress. Its only when India continues to invest in Pakistan-specific defence arraignment that we take issue.

And if one party refuses to communicate, mediators must be called in, especially if a treaty explicitly names a mediator. The World Bank’s role has been made clear – and the treaty’s clauses can be used to determine if India’s construction is legal or otherwise. The World Bank must gather its courage and take this issue head-on, instead of being yet another silent spectator while India chooses to do as it sees fit, all the while painting Pakistan as an antagonist.