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Pakistan seeks US backing on water row with India

ISLAMABAD:Irked by the World Bank pause in mediation, Pakistan has sought US support on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with India, as Secretary of State John Kerry urged New Delhi and Islamabad to amicably resolve the row.

Kerry made a phone call to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday night and discussed the row over the IWT implementation and the role of the World Bank (WB), which had brokered the treaty in 1960.

World Bank declares pause to protect Indus Waters Treaty

After Kerry’s call, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale also met Dar at Q-Block – the seat of the finance ministry. The back-to-back contacts highlight the importance of the water issue, which can potentially endanger regional stability if the situation slips out of control, according to finance ministry sources.

“The US would like to see an amicable solution to this [water] issue,” a finance ministry handout quoted Kerry as saying. Kerry told Dar that the WB president had informed him about Pakistan’s complaint against India on the IWT.

The water dispute has catapulted the US back into Pakistan’s economic picture. The American civilian and military assistance to Pakistan has drastically come down in recent months and its implications on Pakistan’s fiscal situation have started emerging in the shape of a larger-than-anticipated budget deficit.

Independent analysts argue that Washington may not play an effective role in resolving the water dispute, as the Obama administration is preparing to hand over the White House to Donald Trump next month.

“Senator Dar indicated that the US support on the principles and legal position of Pakistan will be greatly appreciated,” stated the finance ministry. Early this month, the WB had announced a pause in playing its legally binding role of mediator in the IWT implementation. In October, Pakistan had approached the WB seeking appointment of the Chairman of Court of Arbitration to resolve a dispute over construction of two mega hydropower projects by India in violation of the IWT.

Indus waters treaty: World Bank president calls Dar

However, the WB announced a pause in mediation – much to the dismay of Islamabad. The bank urged the two countries to resolve the issue at a bilateral forum even though the two sides had already exhausted that option.

The finance minister told Kerry that the IWT was an international commitment and it was the WB’s responsibility to make sure India honoured the treaty and the water rights of hundreds of millions of Pakistani people were protected, said the finance ministry.

Dar added that the Court of Arbitration was the legal requirement, and the World Bank must fulfill the commitment to appointing the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration.

India’s repeated threats to run Pakistan dry pose a real threat to Pakistan’s food and economic security. The civil and military leadership has already announced that materialisation of India’s threat would be considered ‘open aggression’ and a blatant ‘act of war’.

Pakistan and China on Thursday decided to make water security a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework aimed at preparing a plan against any adverse impact of any such Indian move on Pakistan’s economic security.

Dar informed Kerry that the WB president had been in touch with him during the current month. Sources, however, said the WB has yet not made a formal commitment that the mediation process would be started immediately.

The finance ministry said Kerry has also appreciated the improvement in Pakistan’s economic indicators. Dar shared the latest developments in the economy and the Pakistan Stock Exchange and said all economic indicators had improved over the last three years. He added that the government after having achieved macro-economic stability was now focused on achieving higher sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

India will set dangerous precedent by violating IWT: Chaudhry

The finance minister and Ambassador Hale discussed the current status of trade and economic ties between Pakistan and the US. The ambassador said the United States valued its longstanding ties with Pakistan and considered Pakistan an important partner. He acknowledged the economic turnaround Pakistan has achieved over the last three years.

courtesy : express tribune



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