World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva is scheduled to travel to New Delhi in the first half of the next month to discuss the possibilities of initiating a new process to resolve a six-month old dispute between India and Pakistan over the Indus Water Treaty. The two countries are locked in a fight over two hydroelectric projects India is building in Jammu and Kashmir over Kishenganga and Chenab rivers. Pakistan’s case is that the designs of the Kishenganga project and Ratle project over Chenab violate the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 that governs the distribution of waters of six Indus basin rivers between the two countries. The World Bank, which had brokered the treaty, is an acknowledged arbitrator in disputes like these.
Georgieva, who took over as CEO of World Bank at the start of this year, travelled to Pakistan towards the end of January and discussed the issue with the top leadership in that country, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The issue will almost certainly figure in her talks with the Indian government as well, though her visit has a more broad-based agenda and is part of her effort to reach out to regions where the World Bank is actively engaged.
In December, the World Bank had asked India and Pakistan to try out “alternative” approaches to settle their dispute after the two countries pressed for separate mechanisms in the Indus Treaty for this purpose. Pakistan had, in August last year, asked the World Bank for the constitution of a Court of Arbitration as provided for in the Treaty. India, on the other hand, gave a notice for appointment of a neutral expert, which is another kind of dispute redressal mechanism under the treaty.
The World Bank said it would activate both the processes in parallel, but India objected saying this could lead to complications in the event of the two processes leading to contradictory rulings. Following this, the World Bank ‘paused’ both the processes and wrote to the two countries to explore alternative mechanisms.
A World Bank representative, Ian Solomon, had travelled to India in the first week of January and discussed the possible ways to break the stalemate. Sources say tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and the World Bank might not be ruled out before a more formal dispute resolution mechanism is decided on. Following the terror attacks in Uri last September, India had suspended the routine talks that happen between the Indus Commissioners of the two countries, thus snapping the normal channel of communication on the treaty.