The government has decided to approach the World Bank to request the appointment of a neutral expert to resolve the Indo-Pak dispute over the Kishanganga Hydroelectric Project if bilateral efforts fail.

An official document available to Daily Times has revealed that after failing to resolve the dispute through Indus Water Commission-level talks, the government has directed the Foreign Office to initiate the process of requesting the appointment of a neutral expert as stipulated in the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). Under the treaty, the western tributaries of the Indus River have been allocated to Pakistan, but Article III (2d) allows India to use these waters for hydropower generation.

No leeway: Sources told Daily Times the government would attempt to solve the dispute bilaterally during the secretary-level talks. They said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had already said Pakistan would discuss the water dispute with India in the next round of negotiations. However, they added, the government was not anticipating any leeway from India and had thus finalised preparations to request a neutral expert to resolve the matter. Both countries previously settled their differences on the Baglihar project through the arbitration of a neutral expert.

The dispute over the Kishanganga project started when India announced the plans for a reservoir with storage capacity of 0.14 MAF in 1994, prompting Pakistan to object to the design and the diversion of flow from one of the tributaries of the River Jhelum. Following several meetings of the permanent Indus Water Commission, India revised the design from “storage” to a “run-off river hydroelectric” project. However, Pakistan still objects to the diversion of flow and the resultant adverse effects on agriculture in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The permanent commission on the IWT requested both India and Pakistan on May 11, 2009 to jointly appoint a neutral expert to resolve the matter, but differences on both sides have prevented the governments from proceeding. Under the treaty, if both countries fail to jointly appoint the neutral expert, the World Bank can appoint a neutral expert whose decision is binding on both sides.