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Indus Waters Treaty: World Bank Appoints Chairman of Court of Arbitration

The World Bank has appointed a “neutral expert” and a chairman of the Court of Arbitration regarding the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants, in view of disagreements and differences between India and Pakistan over the 1960 Indus Water Treaty.

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What The World Bank Said:

Announcing the appointments, the World Bank said that it is confident that the highly qualified experts appointed as Neutral Expert and as members of the Court of Arbitration will engage in fair and careful consideration of their jurisdictional mandate, as they are empowered to do by the Treaty.

The Appointees:

Michel Lino has been appointed as the Neutral Expert and Sean Murphy has been appointed as Chairman of the Court of Arbitration. They will carry out their duties in their individual capacity as subject matter experts and independently of any other appointments they may currently hold, the World Bank said in a statement.

What The MEA Said:

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said, “We have noted the World Bank’s announcement to concurrently appoint a Neutral Expert and a Chair of the Court of Arbitration in the ongoing matter related to the Kishenganga and Ratle projects.” “Recognising the World Bank’s admission in its announcement that ‘carrying out two processes concurrently poses practical and legal challenges’, India will assess the matter,” the statement said. “India believes that the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty must be in the letter and spirit of the Treaty.”

Indus Water Treaty:

  • The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960, by then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then Pakistani President Ayub Khan, negotiated by the World Bank.
    • The treaty establishes a cooperative mechanism for exchanging information between the two countries regarding the use of the western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) allocated to Pakistan and the eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej) allocated to India.
    • The treaty also underlines provisions allowing each country to use the rivers allocated to the other for certain purposes such as irrigation and hydroelectricity.
    • The Permanent Indus Commission, which has a commissioner from each country, oversees the cooperative mechanism and ensures that the two countries meet annually (alternately in India and Pakistan) to discuss myriad issues emerging from the treaty.

Concerns About This Treaty:

  • Both countries held different positions when Pakistan raised objections regarding the technical design features of the Kishanganga (330MW) and Ratle (850 MW) hydroelectric power plants located on the tributaries of the Jhelum and the Chenab, respectively, designated as “Western Rivers”.
    • However, under Articles III and VII of the treaty, India is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers (subject to constraints specified in Annexures to the Treaty).
  • Differences were also discernible when Pakistan approached the World Bank to facilitate the setting up of a court of arbitration to address the concerns related to these two projects referred to in Article IX Clause 5 of the treaty, and when India requested the appointment of a Neutral Expert referent to Clause 2.1 of Article IX on the settlement of differences and dispute of the treaty, respectively.
  • Pakistan, invoking Article VII Clause 2 on future cooperation, raised objections on the construction and technical designs of the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydropower plants located on Marusudar river, a tributary of the Chenab, in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India has raised concerns on issues such as Pakistan’s blockade of the Fazilka drain, which resulted in water contamination in the border areas, referent to Article II Clause 3 and Article IV Clause 4 and 6 of the treaty.

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