The World Bank on Tuesday asked Pakistan to accept an offer by India to appoint a neutral expert over the dispute over Kishanganga dam, which was inaugurated recently by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to reports, the World Bank has asked Pakistan to reconsider its demand of taking up the issue with the International Court of Arbitration (ICA).
Pakistan considers the construction of the Kishanganga dam in Kashmir over the waters flowing into the western rivers a violation of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. It wants the dispute to be referred to the ICA.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a fresh communication last week advised the Pakistan government to withdraw from its stand of taking the matter to the ICA, Pakistan-based Dawn reported.
The bank had on November 10, 2016 even picked a US chief justice, the rector of Imperial College, London, and the World Bank president for appointing chairman of the court to resolve the dispute over the dam, the report said.
India says there are differences between it and Pakistan over the design of the dam and, therefore, the matter should be addressed by some neutral experts.
A source privy to the development told the paper that Pakistan believed that acceding to India's proposal of referring the dispute to neutral experts or withdrawing from its stand would mean closing the doors of arbitration and surrendering its right of raising disputes before international courts.
"It will become a precedent and every time a dispute emerges between Pakistan and India, the latter will always opt for dispute resolution through neutral experts," the source said.
On December 12, 2016, the World Bank president had informed Pakistan through a letter to then finance minister Ishaq Dar that he had decided to "pause" the process of appointing the ICA chairman as well as the neutral expert.
Dar had lodged a strong protest with the World Bank telling it that Pakistan would not recognise the pause. He had asked the bank to play its due role in the matter.
Pakistan believes that on the one hand the World Bank has tied its hands from raising the dispute at the ICA, and on the other, it has not blocked the Indian effort to complete the construction of the dam.
The World Bank did not even heed to Pakistan's concern when provided with satellite images during a number meetings with the bank that India was constructing the dam. The bank even denied Pakistan the opportunity to stay the construction of the dam, the report said.
In February last year, the World Bank further extended its pause until the secretary-level talks between the two countries bore some fruits. Subsequently, four rounds of talks were held in February, April, July and September in Washington in which the bank was willing to appoint an international court to determine which forum under the treaty was proper arbitration or neutral experts. But India did not accept it, the source said.
The World Bank even declined Pakistan's forceful plea on May 22, 2018, asking it to express concern by stating that it had "noted the inauguration of the Kishanganga Dam by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi", the source added.
The 1960 treaty recognises the World Bank as an arbitrator in water disputes between India and Pakistan as the bank played a key role in concluding this agreement which allows India to have control over the water flowing into three eastern rivers - Beas, Ravi and Sutlej - also permitting India that it may use the water of western rivers - Chenab, Jhelum and Indus - but it cannot divert the same.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 330 MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir in May earlier this year. Pakistan had protested the inauguration claiming that the project on a river flowing into Pakistan will disrupt water supplies.
Islamabad had been raising objections over the design of the 330 MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project, saying it is not in line with the criteria laid down under the Indus Waters Treaty between the two countries. But, India says the project design was well within parameters of the treaty.
The project, located at Bandipore in North Kashmir, envisages diversion of water of Kishan Ganga river to underground powerhouse through a 23.25-km-long headrace tunnel to generate 1713 million units per annum.
(With PTI inputs)