‘Can’t interpret treaty’: India’s jab at World Bank on Indus Waters Treaty stand

Feb 03, 2023 04:51 AM IST

India has insisted the treaty provides a graded mechanism for handling such issues, which should first be handled by the Commissioners for Indus Waters of the two countries, then a neutral expert and ultimately by a court of arbitration.

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday questioned the World Bank’s decision to go ahead with two parallel processes to address a dispute with Pakistan over two hydropower projects on cross-border rivers, saying this is not in consonance with provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.

Ministry of external affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the treaty was between two countries and New Delhi didn’t think that “they [World Bank] are in a position to interpret the treaty for us”. (ANI)
Ministry of external affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the treaty was between two countries and New Delhi didn’t think that “they [World Bank] are in a position to interpret the treaty for us”. (ANI)

On January 25, India informed Pakistan of its intent to renegotiate the 62-year-old treaty brokered by the World Bank for the management of cross-border rivers because the Pakistani side’s “intransigence” in handling disputes had raised questions about the integrity of the pact.

Also Read: What the Indus impasse entails

At the heart of the current impasse is the World Bank’s decision to both appoint a neutral expert at India’s request and to go ahead with a court of arbitration at the urging of Pakistan to handle the dispute related to Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir.

India has insisted the treaty provides a graded mechanism for handling such issues, which should first be handled by the Commissioners for Indus Waters of the two countries, then a neutral expert and ultimately by a court of arbitration.

“The World Bank itself...acknowledged the problem of having two parallel processes. Our interpretation and assessment is that this is not in consonance with the provisions of the treaty,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a weekly media briefing.

“Hence, we have been talking about a graded approach...I don’t think our opposition has changed at all of this,” he said, noting that the World Bank had stated it was going ahead with the two processes because both countries had asked for them.

“I don’t think they [World Bank] are in a position to interpret the treaty for us. I think it’s a treaty between our two countries. And our assessment [and] interpretation of the treaty is that there is a graded approach,” he added.

Bagchi said the “notice for modification” of the Indus Waters Treaty was issued by the Indian Commissioner for Indus Waters to his Pakistani counterpart on January 25. “This notice was issued with the intent to provide Pakistan an opportunity to enter into government-to-government negotiations to rectify ongoing material breach of the treaty,” he said.

“We have called upon Pakistan to notify a suitable date for the commencement of inter-state bilateral negotiations under Article 12(3) of the treaty within 90 days. I’m not aware of a response from Pakistan as yet,” he said, making it clear that the World Bank has no role in this matter.

Bagchi described the proceedings at the court of arbitration in the Netherlands as a legal process. “I would not speculate as to our position or the exact modality of our approach...We are not involved or participating in that process but I would not like to prejudge the further steps at this stage,” he said.

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan and was brokered by the World Bank, which too is a signatory. It is the most durable treaty between the two countries but has come under considerable pressure in recent years as bilateral relations plunged to an all-time low due to tensions related to terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir.

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