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High-level ‘water talks’ with India from next month

Updated Mar 21, 2017 07:41am


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ISLAMABAD: The Indian delegation led by India’s Indus Water Commissioner P.K. Saxena (left) holds talks with his Pakistani counterpart Mirza Asif Baig on Monday on water disputes between the two countries.—AP
ISLAMABAD: The Indian delegation led by India’s Indus Water Commissioner P.K. Saxena (left) holds talks with his Pakistani counterpart Mirza Asif Baig on Monday on water disputes between the two countries.—AP

ISLAMABAD: India has decided to return to the negotiating table with Pakistan over its disputed hydropower projects in April, following the intervention of the US and the World Bank.

Water and Power Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said on Monday that the two nations would hold three-day secretary-level talks on the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects, under the aegis of the World Bank, in Washington from April 11.

Speaking on the sidelines of the two-day talks between Indus water commissioners from both sides, the minister, who also holds the portfolio for defence, welcomed the Indian decision to resume negotiations under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty on the proposed Pakul Dal, Miyar and Lower Kalnai hydropower projects, disputed by Pakistan.

“The US has intervened at the highest level to help both countries resolve the issue. There will be secretary-level talks on the Ratle and Kishanganga hydropower projects in Washington on April 11, 12 and 13,” he said at a press conference.

Khawaja Asif says US, World Bank helped bring India to the table; admits Kishanganga will affect power generation at Neelum-Jhelum

“We are happy that India has finally agreed to resume talks at the commission level. We welcome this decision and the visit of the Indian delegation,” he added.

The 10-member Indian delegation currently in Islamabad is led by Indian Indus Water Commissioner P.K. Saxena.

Khawaja Asif said Pakistan would be in a position to protect its rights on Ratle hydroelectric project, adding that the country’s stance had not been negated at any level. He refused to speculate whether or not the water talks could ultimately lead to the resumption of composite dialogue.

“We want that India should share the design of the three proposed projects, and if they hurt Pakistan’s interests, then objections will be raised at the appropriate forum; this is our right. Since the treaty was signed, 116 project inspection visits have been undertaken,” he said.

Pakistan has been protesting over the design and construction of the two projects — the 330MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project and the 850MW Ratle hydroelectric project in India-held Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad has been demanding international arbitration through the World Bank — the so-called guarantor of the 1960 treaty.

The minister said Pakistan had decided to seek international arbitration following the failure of secretary-level talks on Ratle on July 14-15 in New Delhi.

Pakistan, he said, had objection over the project design. The minister claimed that the World Bank-sponsored International Court of Arbitration had given its verdict in Pakistan’s favour over the Kishanganga project and Islamabad was now demanding that it be implemented.

A former water and power secretary, however, disagreed. He was of the opinion that Islamabad’s main objection over the diversion of the river waters by India was not entertained by the International Court of Arbitration because authorities could not establish through evidence its water uses from the Line of Control to Muzaffarabad.

The minister, however, conceded that Kishanganga would affect the generation capacity of the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower plant, which is located downstream of the proposed Indian project, by about 10pc.

The minister said the two-day talks on 1,000MW Pakul Dal, 120MW Miyar and 48MW Lower Kalnai projects would be led from the Pakistani side by Mirza Asif Beg, Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner.

He said India had not shared the design of these projects with Pakistan, as required under the treaty, adding that Islamabad had serious reservations over these projects and believed they would give India the capacity to impede water flows to Pakistan.

He said Pakistan always believed the accord was one of the few international treaties capable of resolving serious disputes over water reservoirs through peaceful means and sanctity of the treaty and resolutions of dispute though this was in the interest of the two nations.

In July 2016, a high-level delegation headed by the water and power secretary had visited New Delhi to discuss these projects, but India’s inflexible attitude resulted in their failure to reach a conclusion. After this, Pakistan decided to approach the Permanent Court of Arbitration against India.

Last September, Pakistan approached the World Bank when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi threatened to revoke the 56-year-old treaty following the Uri attack.

Under the treaty, the World Bank has an important role in establishment of the Court of Arbitration.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2017


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Comments (27) Closed

Zak Mar 21, 2017 07:45am

US and WB put india in its place. Soon same instructions for IOK.

Sneha Mar 21, 2017 07:55am

Delusion. USA or world bank can't do anything. All cases on water project has been won by India in past, with opposition unable to stall our construction of projects. Forget bringing India on board for these regularly occurring stale mate meetings, which has no affect on policy decisions of GOI. India on contrary went ahead sanctioning 6 hydropower project in region which will be completed in 3 years.

K SHESHU BABU Mar 21, 2017 08:15am

Resumption of talks on water disputes is a positive way of resolving problems between both countries. The agreement on sharing of water should help farmers of Pakistan and people of Kashmir and Punjab. An amicable settlement should be reached in the interest of the poor and downtrodden sections

INDIAN Mar 21, 2017 08:47am

"US and world bank helped to bring India to the table".. Most laughable lines...

Rish Mar 21, 2017 09:07am

So everybody gets a taxpayer funded trip to America? In the future, these meetings should be held in someplace less comfortable than either India or Pakistan. It'll give everyone an incentive to sort things out locally.

ISMAIL Mar 21, 2017 09:12am

You can't talk with can't talk to extremists like BJP . . .Talk to civilized people . . No need of such talks

M. Emad Mar 21, 2017 09:25am

Many things have changed in the last 56 years. India and Pakistan should sign a new Indus Water Treaty.

Desi Dimag Mar 21, 2017 09:25am

Return back to India safely.

D.K. PAMNANI Mar 21, 2017 09:27am

Have Pakistan sent designs of their hydro projects to India?

rdm Mar 21, 2017 10:31am

Those who advocate for breaking ties with US, it is US and world bank, not your iron brother is helping to bring both the countries into negotiating table.

lost cause Mar 21, 2017 11:05am

In what way US or World Bank has put pressure on India. You forgot to mention it. You mean India felt terrified by the pressure exerted by US and World Bank. No country or organisation can deny India the right to use its share of water. The population of Kashmir has grown considerably since past 50 years. Their requirement of water has also increased. You can't deny them water.

Echs Mar 21, 2017 11:18am

@Zak pak long way to go for diplomacy. Be sensible and polite then you may get what you asked for.

Arif Waswani Mar 21, 2017 11:30am

@D.K. PAMNANI A Chienese Design, no need to look at it.

SURYA KANT AGRAWAL Mar 21, 2017 11:50am

All outstanding issues between two countries should be resolved in the similar manner

V K Singh Mar 21, 2017 12:17pm

@ISMAIL good advice

bulesha Mar 21, 2017 12:21pm

@Zak US & WB ? you still believe that both will have a say about IOK. Wake up

Ali Mar 21, 2017 12:26pm

I always wondered if these discussions take place in Urdu/Hindi. or just some foreign language like english :))

Matiya Mar 21, 2017 12:28pm

Indian team just on a vacation to please all sides, take my word, nothing is going to happen, India will.building the dams.

Vasan Mar 21, 2017 12:46pm

I support both side agree to develop what is good for Kashmir and Kashimiris.

If they are out of poverty and have good development, why they fight ?

Sharing and caring is good to promote peace.

Alba Mar 21, 2017 01:02pm

You can bring a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

Ravi Mar 21, 2017 01:28pm

Keep talking. India will buy time to finish and start new projects. India is buying time to finish and start projects. Talk and talk for another 2 years

Rohit Singh Mar 21, 2017 01:51pm

@Zak "US and WB put india in its place. Soon same instructions for IOK."

Wait for the outcome of the meeting and you will find out who has fallen in place.

vin Mar 21, 2017 01:52pm

Kishanganga dam completed last year.

CP Mar 21, 2017 03:46pm

@Echs Well said, totally agree with you.

SID Mar 21, 2017 03:43pm

@Zak India is buying time to complete these projects. One round talk gives 6 months extension to complete the project .

Sim Mar 21, 2017 06:18pm

@Vasan who said india is out of poverty?

Fried Chillies Mar 22, 2017 03:27pm

@D.K. PAMNANI they are not required to, they never made one