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World Bank envoy to meet India, Pakistan officials over Indus water dispute

A senior World Bank official will on Thursday meet a team of Indian officials to break a deadlock between India and Pakistan over two hydropower projects coming up in the border state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The neighbours, whose ties plunged in 2016, are locked in a dispute over the Kishanganga and Ratle projects that India is building in the Indus river basin. Pakistan says the projects violate the Indus Waters Treaty.

Ian H Solomon, senior adviser to the World Bank president, would meet officials of ministries of external affairs and water resources to hear the Indian side, sources said. India side will be led by Gopal Baglay, a joint secretary in MEA.

After Delhi, Solomon will head to Pakistan.

“The World Bank is keen that the dispute is sorted out in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty. Any fall out will adversely impact the future of the IWT (Indus Waters Treaty) that the bank had brokered,” a government official said.

Pakistan has objected to the projects, saying they flout the Indus treaty under which waters of Indus, Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum rivers are to be shared between the two countries.

Waters of eastern rivers – Beas, Ravi and Sutlej—are allocated to India, bulk of the water from the three western rivers is for Pakistan.

Islamabad says the Kishanganga project, coming up on Jhelum, will reduce by 40% the water flowing into its territory. It wants the storage capacity of the reservoir of the Ratle project, coming up on Chenab, to be reduced to eight million cubic metres from 24MCM.

India says the two projects do not violate the treaty.

Solomon’s visit is the first move by the World Bank after it “paused” on December 12 the mediation process initiated between the two countries, asking them to consider “alternative ways” to resolve their disagreements.

The “pause” came after India objected to the bank starting two parallel processes simultaneously – initiating the court of arbitration as demanded by Pakistan and roping in neutral experts on New Delhi’s request. India said the two mediation efforts running simultaneously was untenable under the Indus treaty.

Pakistan, too, had reservations about neutral experts.

The treaty, which survived three wars and tense ties between the neighbours, came under strain after last year’s attack on an army camp in Kashmir’s Uri. Nineteen soldiers were killed in the audacious strike carried out by suspected Pakistani militants.

Following the attack, India said it would exercise its right to make full use of its share of water under the treaty, which is generous to Pakistan.

Source: HindustanTimes