The World Bank has suspended the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty to give the neighbouring nations time to mull over other ways to resolve their disputes. The development puts the proposed appointment of a neutral expert, requested by India, on hold, in addition to temporarily halting the selection of a chairperson of the Court of Arbitration, as proposed by Pakistan.

“We are announcing this pause to protect the Indus Waters Treaty and to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolve conflicting interests under the Treaty,” read a letter issued by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to the finance ministers of the two countries, adding that they expect the countries to come to an agreement by January.

In response to the letter, India’s Ministry of External Affairs pointed out that it had highlighted the World Bank’s “legally untenable action” on the Kishanganga project dispute between India and Pakistan on November 10. The global financial body’s move to pursue “parallel mechanisms” to resolve technical problems between the two neighbours was not in accordance with the treaty, the ministry had said.

“By temporarily halting both processes now, the World Bank has confirmed that pursuing two concurrent processes can render the treaty unworkable over time,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Tuesday. “India ready to engage in further consultations on the matter of resolving current differences [regarding this water-sharing treaty].”

Pakistan had said that the appointment of a chairperson of the Court of Arbitration would help end the dispute over two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India along the Indus river system. Both processes were underway simultaneously, posing a risk of conflicting verdicts that could violate the treaty.

The World Bank had coordinated negotiations between the nations to ink the Indus Waters Treaty, which divides the flow of six rivers between the countries, in 1960. According to the accord, India controls Beas, Ravi and Sutlej, while Pakistan holds reign over Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. On August 19, Pakistan had requested the Court of Arbitration’s intervention in the resolution of disputes related to India’s Kishanganga hydroelectric plant project on river Neelum, which merges with the Jhelum in Pakistan, and the Ratle project on river Chenab.

Islamabad had also sought the International Court of Justice’s intervention in the matter, after India decided to review the treaty after the attack on an Army base in Kashmir’s Uri sector. New Delhi believes that the strike, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed, was sponsored by Islamabad. However, Pakistan had said the allegations levelled against it are baseless.