India lashed out at the World Bank over its decision to favour Pakistan on the Indus Water Treaty dispute process over the Kishenganga and Ratle dam and hydropower projects. While India had asked for a neutral expert to be appointed over Pakistan’s objections to the projects first, Pakistan appealed directly for a Court of Arbitration (CoA) to be set up as it claims India has violated the 1960 treaty.
“Inexplicably, the World Bank has decided to continue to proceed with these two parallel mechanisms simultaneously. India cannot be party to actions which are not in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty,” said the statement issued by the MEA spokesperson from Tokyo, shortly after PM Modi landed there. “The Government will examine further options and take steps accordingly,” he added.
When asked if the strong language in the statement indicated India would consider cancelling the Indus Water Treaty arbitration process, or even, as it had threatened after the Uri attacks, would consider abrogating the treaty itself, a government source said, “The World Bank’s illegal action has brought into question the workability of the Indus Water Treaty.”
The MEA statement came just hours before the World Bank was due to draw lots by which it selects “umpires” for the Court of Arbitration. On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Water and Power secretary Mohammad Dagha had informed its Senate that the World Bank had begun the process requested by Pakistan under Arbitration Article IX of the Indus Water Treaty rather than India’s appeal for the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) or at most a neutral expert to mediate on what India called “technical issues” with Pakistan.
Officials said the World Bank’s action of going ahead with Pakistan’s claim had escalated the differences into an international dispute. The Hindu has learnt that PM Modi held a high level meeting on the issue last week, where several senior officials proposed that India should pull out of the arbitration entirely unless the World Bank changes what one official referred to as its “legally untenable” stance on Pakistan “intransigence”.
The World Bank country director Junaid Ahmad, an official of Bangladeshi origin is expected to speed up efforts at reconciling the matter in the next few days. “This is a matter of worry for us all,” a diplomat from a third country told The Hindu, indicating that the current military tensions between India and Pakistan, and the escalation in cross-border and cross-LoC firing was adding to the urgency of having the matter resolved.