World Bank Assures Neutrality In India, Pak Talks On Indus Waters Treaty Projects Today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested last year that sharing the Indus waterways could be conditional on Pakistan clamping down on anti-India terrorists

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World Bank Assures Neutrality In India, Pak Talks On Indus Waters Treaty Projects Today

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed 57 years ago between India and Pakistan (File)

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. The World Bank is a mediator of the treaty between the two countries
  2. India had sought a neutral expert to address Pakistan's concerns
  3. Pakistan has constantly objected to the construction of dams
The World Bank has said it will continue to be neutral and impartial in helping India and Pakistan find an "amicable way forward" during talks today on two of India's hydroelectricity projects in Jammu and Kashmir under the 57-year-old Indus Waters Treaty.

Union Water Resources Secretary Amarjit Singh will lead an Indian delegation of senior officials at the talks to be hosted by the World Bank, which is the mediator between the two countries under the treaty on distributing the waters of the Indus river and its tributaries.

In a letter last week to India's Ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna, senior World Bank official Annette Dixon said, "We are pleased both parties have confirmed their participation in the meeting hosted by the World Bank in Washington, DC."

"World Bank welcomes the spirit of goodwill and cooperation," she said, and assured Mr Sarna of its "continued neutrality and impartiality in helping the parties to find an amicable way forward."

Ms Dixon also wrote that the bank hopes "all parties will come to the table prepared to find a way forward that safeguards the Treaty." India and Pakistan had last held talks on the two projects in March this year during a meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) in Pakistan.

Pakistan had approached the World Bank last year, raising concerns over the design of the two hydroelectricity projects located in Jammu and Kashmir. It requested the World Bank to set up a court of arbitration to look into its concerns.

India asked for the appointment of a neutral expert to look into the matter, contending that Pakistan has raised "technical" issues.

In November last year, the World Bank had initiated two simultaneous processes -- to appoint a neutral expert and to establish a court of arbitration to look into technical differences between the two countries in connection with the projects. But these were halted after India objected. Since then representatives of the World Bank have held talks with India and Pakistan separately to find a solution.

The Indus Water treaty was signed in 1960 in a bid to resolve disputes, but Pakistan has constantly objected to the construction of dams by India upstream. India says its use of upstream water is strictly in line with the agreement.

New Delhi says it can use even more water and still remain within the terms of the treaty and has fast-tracked its hydropower projects in J&K, despite protests by Islamabad that power stations on rivers flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies to it.

Pakistan has said some of these projects violate the World Bank-mediated treaty on the sharing of the Indus river and its tributaries upon which 80 per cent of its irrigated agriculture depends.

The swift approval of projects that had languished for years came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested last year that sharing the waterways could be conditional on Pakistan clamping down on anti-India terrorists.

PM Modi told a meeting of government officials on the Indus treaty last year that "blood and water cannot flow together", soon after a deadly terror attack on an army base in Uri in Kashmir which left 19 people dead.

PM Modi's message was two-fold, then Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said - terrorism had to stop, and India must fully utilise the economic potential available to it within the Indus treaty.

(With input from agencies)
 

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