The Swiss engineer held a meeting between India and Pakistan on 9-10 June in Paris, resulting in India agreeing to the physical inspection of the controversial dam project in Kashmir, to be overseen by technical experts from both countries.

The four-member Pakistani team was led by Attorney-General Makhdoom Ali Khan, with Union Secretary of Water and Power J. Hari Narain in charge of India’s six-person side.

Lafitte has not given any strict timeframe for resolving the issue, but the two countries have agreed to at least four more trilateral meetings in Paris, the first to come immediately after the site inspection.

The meeting last week was the first between India and Pakistan to be orchestrated by Lafitte. The Bank’s expert asked India to produce additional documents, such as the complete design of the project, before the inspection.

Pakistan has been demanding work be stopped on the Baglihar project because it believes the dam violates the Indus Water Treaty, and would adversely affect the flow of water from the Chenab river into the country. India has constantly denied that it is breaking the treaty.

Lafitte was named as the World Bank’s neutral expert in early May, a choice that was approved by both India and Pakistan.

Pakistan approached the Bank for help as it brokered the original Indus Water Treaty (1960), which gives the country exclusive rights to the waters of the Indus basin’s three western rivers (Indus, Jhelum and Chenab), and neighbours India control over the waters of the three eastern rivers (Ravi, Sutlej and Beas). Pakistan is concerned that Islamabad’s building of the 450MW Baglihar dam will give India an uneven share of the Chenab’s waters.

Under the Indus treaty, India is allowed to use the Chenab for hydroelectric generation, but not for irrigation.

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