India has right to develop Kishanganga, Ratle projects: World Bank

india-pakistan-1reuters (File photo) Representational image
  • The World Bank, which brokered the treaty in 1960, is keen to get the dispute resolved

The World Bank convened a secretary-level discussion on the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)—a river water sharing treaty between India and Pakistan. The discussion, according to a statement by the World Bank, “took place in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation. The parties have agreed to continue discussions and reconvene in September in Washington DC.''

The World Bank, which brokered the treaty in 1960, had invited both the countries for talks to resolve the issues that have cropped up over resource usage and sharing. According to a fact sheet released by the World Bank, India and Pakistan disagree over the construction of the Kishanganga (330megawatts) and Ratle (850megawatts) hydroelectric power plants being built by India. “The two countries disagree over whether the technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants contravene the treaty. The plants are on respectively a tributary of the Jhelum and the Chenab rivers. The treaty designates these two rivers as well as the Indus as 'Western Rivers' to which Pakistan has unrestricted use. Among the uses, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers subject to constrains specified in annexures to the treaty.''

Although it appears at first glance that the dispute is a fallout of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's famous statement last year after the Uri attacks that blood and water cannot flow together, the Kishanganga project actually began in 2007.

The Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant was started in 2007, though work slowed down as Pakistan raised objections and the Permanent Court of Arbitration finally ruled in 2011 that India could divert a minimum amount of water for power generation. The World Bank's statement too reaffirms India's right to tap hydroelectricity from the Jhelum. The Ratle project, in Doda district of Jammu, has not started, though the statement makes it clear that India has the right to develop it for hydroelectric power.

Pakistan has asked the World Bank to facilitate a court of arbitration to look into the concerns while India sought appointment of a neutral expert. This put the World Bank in a quandary, because the treaty does not empower it to choose one procedure over the other, and the bank encouraged the two parties to reach a mechanism to address the issues.

On December 12, 2016, World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim said the bank would pause before taking a decision in order to safeguard the treaty, which has been a big success so far, having survived several wars and conflicts. Former US president Dwight Eisenhower had once said this treaty was “one bright spot in a very depressing world picture that we see so often.''

The World Bank is looking for an amicable resolution to the issue and has discussed a variety of proposals with both countries on resolving the disagreement. It has sent its senior officials to discuss the matter with Indian and Pakistani officials, including the finance ministers of both countries.

India's current position is that within the ambit of the treaty itself, India has not exploited the full potential of the water available to it, and it is looking for ways to ensure this now. Modi's high level meeting with officials last year was to discuss ways in which the IWT could be relooked at.

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Topics : #World Bank | #India-Pak

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