The World Bank has announced it is to resume the two separate processes requested by India and Pakistan in relation to the 330MW Kishenganga and 850MW Ratle hydroelectric power plants, in line with its responsibilities under the Indus Waters Treaty.

India and Pakistan disagree over whether the technical design features of these two hydroelectric plants contravene the Treaty. Pakistan asked the World Bank to facilitate setting up a Court of Arbitration to consider its concerns about the designs of the two hydroelectric power projects, while India asked for the appointment of a Neutral Expert for the same purpose.

On December 12, 2016, the World Bank declared a pause in the two separate processes to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements. Since then, the World Bank said it has encouraged and worked with both countries to seek an amicable resolution. Multiple high-level meetings have been convened and a variety of proposals have been discussed.

The World Bank said it continues to share the concerns of the countries that carrying out the two appointments concurrently poses practical and legal risks. However, the lack of success in finding an acceptable solution over the past five years is also a risk to the Treaty itself, it said.

In arriving at the decision to resume the two processes, the Bank said it has carefully considered the views of all Parties involved, and  remains committed to act in good faith and with complete impartiality and transparency while continuing to assist the countries and fulfilling its responsibilities under the Treaty.

The decision to resume the processes was formally communicated in letters to both countries.

The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after nine years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory. The negotiations were the initiative of former World Bank President Eugene Black. Seen as one of the most successful international treaties, it has survived frequent tensions, including conflict, and has provided a framework for irrigation and hydropower development for more than half a century.

The Treaty allocates the Western Rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) to Pakistan and the Eastern Rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej) to India. At the same time, the Treaty allows each country certain uses on the rivers allocated to the other.

The Treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission, which has a Commissioner from each country. The Treaty also sets forth distinct procedures to handle issues which may arise: “questions” are handled by the Commission; “differences” are to be resolved by a Neutral Expert; and “disputes” are to be referred to a seven-member arbitral tribunal called the “Court of Arbitration.”

Image: Kishanganga project in India