LAHORE: India has agreed to participate in an annual meeting of the permanent Indus Waters Commission scheduled to be held in Pakistan this month.
The meeting could not be held in September last year as India had reportedly suspended talks in the wake of a terrorist attack in Uri in held Kashmir.
Delegations from both countries, led by their commissioners for Indus waters, will attend the meeting.
Senior officials explained that the meeting was important because as it recognised that the Indus Waters Treaty was intact despite aggressive statements by the Indian prime minister.
“It is a regular meeting and [we have decided that] issues [pertaining to the] Ratle and Kishanganga dams, for which Pakistan has already approached the World Bank, will not be discussed. [There are several] issues on agenda that we cannot disclose at the moment,” an official of the Ministry of Water and Power told Dawn on Friday.
“Since the dates and schedule of the meeting are yet to be decided, [all that can be] confirmed is that the meeting will be held this month,” the official added.
Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, a former Pakistani commissioner for Indus waters, explained that India’s willingness to attend the conference showed that the treaty was intact and the aggressive attitude shown by India last year was merely limited to hostile statements.
“The last regular meeting of the commission was held two years ago and it wasn’t held last year...India has finally arrived at the decision that the treaty remains intact and cannot be suspended or ignored at any level,” the former commissioner added.
Mr Shah said India would try to bring up issues pertaining to the Ratle and Kishanganga dams at the meeting, but Pakistan would not want this to happen as it had already approached the World Bank and asked it to resolve those issues. Other topics of discussion that the delegations might bring up include opportunities of information sharing by both countries during the monsoon season, which is expected to begin towards the end of May or the beginning of June.
Holding an annual meeting was mandatory under the treaty, Mr Shah added. However, it could be held anytime on the request of any of the two countries. He said since the aforementioned dams would not be on the agenda of the meeting, other issues like the construction of four hydropower projects, including the Mayar dam, by India were likely to be brought up.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2017