India, Pak to resume talks on Indus Waters Treaty in Lahore this week

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Islamabad: India and Pakistan will resume their talks on various aspects of the crucial Indus Waters Treaty in Lahore on Wednesday, the first bilateral engagement since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office.

India’s Indus Water Commissioner P K Saxena is expected to reach here today to begin the two-day discussions with his Pakistani counterpart Syed Mehr Ali Shah on Wednesday, Dawn quoted a government official as saying.

The last meeting of the Pakistan-India Permanent Indus Commission was held in New Delhi in March during which both the sides had shared details of the water flow and the quantum of water being used under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.

The talks will be the first official engagement between India and Pakistan since Khan became Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister on August 18.

In a letter to Khan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed India’s resolve to build good neighbourly relations between the two countries.

India and Pakistan would also finalise the schedule of future meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission and visits of the teams of the Indus commissioners, the official said.

He said the water commissioners of both the countries are required to meet twice a year and arrange technical visits to projects’ sites and critical river head works, but Pakistan had been facing a lot of problems in timely meetings and visits.

The meeting is also expected to discuss ways and means for timely and smooth sharing of hydrological data on shared rivers.

On July 30, Modi telephoned Khan to congratulate him on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party’s victory in the general elections and expressed hope that both countries will work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties.

The report said that the Pakistani side will reiterate its objections over two water storage and hydropower projects being built by India during the two-day talks scheduled for August 29-30.

The World Bank, a signatory to the Indus Waters Treaty, said in May that it could not reach an agreement with Pakistan to address its concerns after two-days of talks in Washington, days after India inaugurated the 330 MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan had protested the inauguration of the project by Prime Minister Modi, claiming it will disrupt water supplies to Pakistan.

As a signatory to the treaty, the World Bank’s role is limited and procedural, the Bank had said.

The 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, brokered by the World Bank and signed by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s president Ayub Khan, administers how the water of the Indus river and its tributaries that flow in both the countries will be utilised.

Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, waters of the eastern rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi had been allocated to India and the western rivers the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to Pakistan, except for certain non-consumptive uses for India.

Islamabad had been raising objections over the design of the Kishanganga hydroelectric project, saying it is not in line with the criteria laid down under the Indus Waters Treaty between the two countries. However, India said that the project design was well within the treaty’s parameters.

The Kishanganga project was started in 2007 but on May 17, 2010, Pakistan moved for international arbitration against India under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.

The Hague-based International Court of Arbitration allowed India in 2013 to go ahead with construction of the project in North Kashmir and upheld India’s right under the bilateral Indus Waters Treaty to divert waters from the Kishanganga for power generation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The international court, however, decided that India shall release a minimum flow of nine cubic metres per second into the Kishanganga river (known as Neelam in Pakistan) at all times to maintain environmental flows. PTI