India ready to talk on Indus waters issue

New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) India on Tuesday said that it is ready to engage in further consultations on matters relating to the waters of the Indus river basin in relation to Pakistan after the World Bank took a decision that is seemingly in New Delhi’s favour.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that “India remains fully conscious of its international obligations and is ready to engage in further consultations on the matter of resolving current differences” regarding the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power projects.

The World Bank Group announced a pause in the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.

According to a statement issued by the World Bank, the announcement temporarily halts the appointment of a neutral expert, as requested by India, and the chairman of the Court of Arbitration as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding the two power plants under construction by India along the Indus rivers system.

“We are announcing this pause to protect the Indus Waters Treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolving conflicting interests under the Treaty and its application to two hydroelectric power plants,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

“This is an opportunity for the two countries to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable over time. I would hope that the two countries will come to an agreement by the end of January,” he added.

The pause was announced by Kim in letters to the Finance Ministers of India and Pakistan, stressing that the Bank was acting to safeguard the treaty.

Following the September 18 cross-border terror attack on an army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers, New Delhi said that it would consider revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty that was brokered by the World Bank. India has blamed the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed for the Uri attack.

According to the agreement, India has control over three eastern rivers — Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — all flowing from Punjab.

Pakistan, as per the treaty, controls the western rivers of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum that flow from Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir has been demanding a review of the treaty as it robs the state of its rights to use the water of the rivers.

The current processes under the treaty concern the Kishenganga (330 MW) and Ratle (850 MW) hydroelectric power plants, being built by India on the Kishenganga and Chenab rivers respectively.

The Indus Waters Treaty was seen as one of the most successful international treaties and has withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflict.

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 includes a commissioner from each of the two countries.

It also sets out a process for resolving so-called “questions”, “differences” and “disputes” that may arise between the parties.

“The government had pointed out on November 10 the legal untenability of the World Bank launching two simultaneous processes for appointment of a Neutral Expert – requested by India – and establishment of a Court of Arbitration – requested by Pakistan – to adjudicate technical differences between India and a Pakistan on Kishenganga and Ralte projects, Swarup said.

“By temporarily halting both the processes now, the Bank has confirmed that pursuing the two concurrent processes can render the treaty unworkable over time,” he stated.

–IANS

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