ISLAMABAD: In a sign of accommodation, India offered on Friday to amend the design of the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul navigational project in such a manner as to leave one of its bays as an un-gated structure to resolve a 26-year-old dispute within the parameters of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. India will provide the revised project design within a month to Pakistan, which will respond by Sept 15 after examining it.
Secretary for Water and Power Javed Iqbal and his Indian counterpart Dhruv Vijai Singh led their teams in two-day talks on the project.
According to officials, India offered to keep one of the many bays open and flowing to allay Pakistan’s fears of river manipulation.
The Pakistani team said the revised design would have to be examined to assess the possibility of water storage or manipulation.
Even if the design is in compliance with the treaty, Pakistan will like to resolve the issue in a way that does not give an impression of a unilateral action by India, an official said.
However, a former secretary for water and power cautioned that in view of the kind of relationship between the two countries, it would be a blunder to agree to a barrage, which was not permissible under the treaty.
He said as the barrage was meant to divert river water, it should not be acceptable to Pakistan.
“Blocking an un-gated bay is not a difficult thing to do once the main barrage structure is complete,” he said. “There is no point in building a barrage when India’s navigational requirements can be met through the existing natural Wullar lake.”
An official said the Pakistani team had agreed to examine the revised design to maintain a positive atmosphere during the talks.
“There is already a status quo on the project and we have nothing to lose in reviewing the project design, which is a routine thing under the treaty.”
Pakistan requested India to share through email telemetric data relating to glacial melting, flooding and ecological changes on a regular basis. Such an arrangement already exists with China. “They were positive about it and would get back to us with a response soon,” an official said. He said the information sharing would be in addition to seasonal flooding data India shared with Pakistan under the treaty.
The Indian delegation also called on Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar who expressed the hope the two sides would amicably resolve the dispute on the design of Wullar barrage.
A joint statement issued at the end of the talks said the two sides reiterated their commitment to bilateral engagement in a spirit of constructive cooperation and discussed their positions on the project while reaffirming a commitment to the Indus Waters Treaty. “In order to address the concerns of both countries, it was agreed that the Indian side shall forward comprehensive technical data to Pakistan within one month. The Pakistan side shall examine and furnish its views to the Indian side by Sept 15.”
The two countries have held 13 rounds of secretary-level talks, including four under the ‘composite dialogue’, on the subject.