Baglihar Issue: 'Arbitration Could Open Pandora's Box'
25 January 2005
The Indian Express
Islamabad: Cautioning that Pakistan's decision to seek the World Bank's arbitration over the Baglihar project issue could lead to a 'prolonged' and 'complicated' legal wrangle, a leading expert of the Bank has said the Indus Water Treaty has not assigned it the role of a guarantor nor empowered it with an enforcement mechanism. Salman Salman, the lead counsel, international law group of World Bank in a comprehensive presentation on the 1960 Indus Treaty at the bank's headquarters in Washington last month said reference for arbitration could end up opening a 'pandora's box' with the dispute prolonging for years. 'We are not a guarantor of the treaty but a signatory to certain purposes', he said in his presentation made on December 25 last, well before Pakistan formally moved the Bank on January 17 for appointment of neutral expert to resolve the dispute over India's construction of hydro-power project on the Chenab river. In his presentation, posted on the website of the Bank, Salman who was described by the bank officials as an authority on the treaty and one who has authored a book on it, said the arbitration process was a 'lengthy and complicated process.' 'If there is no compromise between the two parties over neutral expert, it could drag on for a long time', he said. He said the treaty has not assigned any 'monitoring or enforcement' mechanism for the bank and the procedure for appointment of a neutral expert and subsequently a court of arbitration needed the consent of both the parties. Salman said under the treaty brokered by the bank after over 15 years of lengthy negotiations, the organisation has limited role in arbitration as the permanent Indus commissions established in both the countries have been assigned a much wider role to resolve the disputes. The joint fund of 10,000 dollars deposited for arbitration by both the countries in 1960 has now crossed over one-lakh dollars, but both the parties have to reimburse any expenditure for arbitration by neutral expert or a court of arbitration, he said. The treaty assigned the rights of eastern rivers, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas to India and western rivers, Indus, Chenab and Jehlum to Pakistan with limited rights to India to use the waters of these rivers for irrigation and generation of hydel power with run-of-the-river projects. India, while expressing its willingness to reach a negotiated settlement, said the project being built on Chenab at Baglihar in Jammu and Kashmir was well with in the specified parameters of the treaty, while Pakistan described it as a dam aimed at 'blocking' large quantities of water meant for it.