LAHORE - India is up in arms after Pakistan got a break over two controversial dams being built in Occupied Kashmir with the World Bank accepting Islamabad’s call for an arbitration court to settle the dispute.

The development is being seen as a victory for Pakistan which has been complaining of Indus Water Treaty violation by the neighbouring country for long, according to diplomatic sources as well as officials of Indus Water Commission of Pakistan.

India, on the other hand, has lodged a protest over the WB move and refused to be the party in the arbitration process putting future of the water treaty at stake. New Delhi is calling for the appointment of single neutral expert on the issue.

The Bank had brokered the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 and has a certain role in the resolution of differences between the two neighbours on water sharing.

Islamabad in August 2015 had raised serious objection on the designs of Ratle (850MW) and Kishanganga (330MW) hydropower projects being constructed by India at River Chenab and River Jhelum respectively, in occupied region of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to Indus Water Commission of Pakistan, India was constructing the dams in violation of the treaty that ensured a fair division of river water resources between the upper riparian India and the lower riparian Pakistan.

The Pakistani commission for more than a year had been repeatedly requesting India to address its concerns and stop constructing dams in violation of the Indus water treaty.

“India was just offering talks to buy time and was not moving ahead with concrete steps. At the same time, it continued construction of the dams which was unacceptable to us.” Pakistani officials said.

Keeping in mind New Delhi’s track record, Islamabad approached the World Bank last month and called for the formation of court of arbitration on the projects. “It took Pakistan almost a year to prepare its case and approach the World Bank,” said an official of the water commission.

“The World Bank on Thursday held a drawing of lots at its headquarters in Washington, DC to determine who will appoint three umpires to sit on the court of arbitration. And, at the same time it also proposed a neutral expert to examine the technical issues,” he said, adding it was first apparent victory of Pakistan’s stance and “we accepted the World Bank proposals”.

“It is for the first time in Treaty’s history that World Bank agreed to form court of arbitration on our request. We welcome the move,” said the source.

According to some other experts in country’s water sector, who spoke with The Nation on condition of anonymity, the verdict of Hague based permanent court of arbitration on Kishanganga hydropower project in 2013 allowed World Bank to directly form court of arbitration instead of appointing a neutral expert. But, India claims the World Bank cannot do it as per the Indus Water Treaty terms.

“India cannot be party in international arbitration which are not in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty,” India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup was quoted in a statement by Indian media. He also stated that India will examine further options and took steps accordingly.

The experts, however, questioned the reluctance of India towards resolving the issue, arguing if New Delhi is right in its stand why it was fearful of arbitration court.

The World Bank, meanwhile, in a statement urged India and Pakistan to agree to mediation to settle on a mechanism for resolving the issue.

India has planned generating 22,000MW from the rivers in IOK. So far, it has built Dalhasti hydropower project of 330MW, Baglihar of 450MW and now it is about to complete Kishanganga, while work on Ratle project too has been started.

On Neelum River,  India has completed Uri-1 and Uri-II projects. It also built Nimmo Bazgo and Chattak projects in IOK.

Pakistan had also raised concern over the design of Pakal Dul (1,000MW), Miyar (120MW) and Lower Kalnai (48MW) projects being built by India on River Chenab.