WASHINGTON: Pakistan has apparently missed the opportunity to involve the World Bank in the Kishanganga dam dispute before it becomes operational.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the disputed project in the next few days and the World Bank has not yet responded to Islamabad’s request for a meeting.
Pakistan wants to send a high-level delegation, headed by Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali, to Washington to share its concerns with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim about the dam.
The bank has accepted the Pakistani proposal but bank officials say that they are still trying to find an appropriate slot for the meeting because of their chief’s busy schedule. Pakistan had hoped for a meeting in late April, when Mr Ali was in New York for a UN meeting, but it did not happen.
The 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT) recognises the World Bank as an arbitrator in water disputes between India and Pakistan as the bank played a key role in concluding this agreement.
The power division of Pakistan’s energy ministry sent a fresh communiqué to the World Bank in early April, urging it to ensure that India abided by the treaty that gave Pakistan control over the water of the Chenab and the Jhelum rivers.
The control over the water flowing in three eastern rivers — Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — was given to India. India may also use the waters of the western rivers in “non-consumptive” ways. India interprets this as a permission to build “run of the river” hydel projects that do not change the course of the river and do not deplete the water level downstream.
Pakistan argues that the Kishanganga and Ratle projects in the India-held Kashmir would do both — change the course of the river and deplete the water level.
In 2010, Pakistan took the matter to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which stayed the project for three years.
But in 2013, the court ruled that the Kishanganga was “a run-of-river plant within the meaning of the Indus Waters Treaty and that India may accordingly divert water from the Kishanganga (Neelum River) for power generation.
The court, however, also ruled that India was under an obligation to “construct and operate” the Kishanganga dam in such a way that it “maintains a minimum flow of water in the Kishanganga/Neelum River.”
The minimum flow was fixed at 9cumecs, a unit of flow equal to one cubic meter of water per second.
India declared that it was lowering the height of the dam from the planned 98m to 37m and resumed construction at full swing.
Pakistan, however, collected evidence to prove that India was violating the treaty as well as the court’s verdict in August 2016, Pakistan asked the World Bank to appoint a court of arbitration to review the designs of the Kishanganga and Ratle projects. India rejected the suggestion, saying that Pakistan’s objections were technical in nature, the matter should be decided by a neutral expert.
Pakistan disagreed, arguing that a decision by a technical expert was non-binding and India would be under no obligation to implement the expert’s recommendation.
The World Bank set in motion both processes but paused them when India and Pakistan refused to withdraw their proposals. After the pause, the bank held several rounds of talks, the last of which took place in September 2017, but failed to resolve the dispute.
After India announced last month that it was commissioning all three units at Kishanganga, Pakistan wrote to the World Bank, demanding that it ensure that India abided by the Treaty.
“The World Bank continues to work with both countries to resolve the most recent disagreement in an amicable manner and to safeguard the Treaty,” a bank spokesperson told media when asked how the bank planned to resolve this dispute now.
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The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily