India reneges on deal to get power projects inspected

Updated 11 Jan 2019


LAHORE: Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah and members of his team talk to Indian Indus Water Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Saxena and other members of his delegation during a meeting last month.— APP/File
LAHORE: Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah and members of his team talk to Indian Indus Water Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Saxena and other members of his delegation during a meeting last month.— APP/File

LAHORE: India has postponed inspection of its two hydropower projects — 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnal — by Pakistani experts on the pretext of some local issues.

Sources see it as a possible impact of the recent cancellation of talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“It seems to be a fallout of the recent tension emerging with the cancellation of the talks by India as other issues are normally affected in a larger context in such situations,” a senior official who asked for anonymity told Dawn on Tuesday.

A nine-member team led by Indian commissioner for Indus waters Pradeep Kumar Saxena had visited Lahore last month and held talks for two days (Aug 29 and 30) with their Pakistani counterparts on water disputes on the platform of the Pakistan-India Permanent Commission for Indus Waters (PCIW).

Pakistani experts were supposed to visit two hydropower projects in Chenab basin early next month

During the talks, Pakistan’s commissioner for Indus waters Syed Mohammad Mehr Ali Shah raised the objections, possible solutions to the problem, India’s previous replies, feedback, etc, on the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnal projects.

Finally, India agreed to get the sites of its two projects at the Chenab basin inspected by Pakistani experts by the end of this month. It also assured Pakistan of taking up its objections/concerns over the two projects seriously by resolving them amicably in the light of technical memorandums to be prepared and exchanged by the two countries at the next meeting of the Pakistan-India PCIW to be held in New Delhi.

“Through minutes of the last PCIW’s (Aug 29-30) Lahore meeting, the Indian delegation had agreed to get the aforementioned projects inspected by the Pakistani experts during the last week of the ongoing month. When the Pakistani authorities concerned contacted them in this regard recently, they, through a letter, confirmed Oct 7 to 11 for tour/inspection of the projects by a three-member Pakistani team headed by the Indus water commissioner,” the source explained.

India, through the letter, also explained the reasons behind confirmation of Oct 7-11 schedule for the visit of Pakistani experts. They (Indian authorities), according to the letter, stated that since the administration of the respective districts in held Kashmir would be busy in holding the local bodies elections till Oct 5, the inspection tour of Pakistani experts would only be possible from Oct 7 to 11.

“But now the Indian authorities have postponed the scheduled inspection, stating it wouldn’t be possible due to holding of Punchayat elections in the state by the respective district administrations soon after the end of the local bodies elections. They didn’t give us new dates as they just stated to coordinate with Pakistani authorities soon,” he added.

Commissioner for Indus waters Mehr Ali Shah confirmed the development and expressed disappointment over the postponement of the inspection of the projects by Pakistani experts. “Postponement of our visit for inspection of India’s two hydropower projects at Chenab basin is an element of surprise for us despite the fact that the delegation, which visited Lahore and held meeting with us last month, had agreed to allow us inspection of the same in the last week of the ongoing month. Later, they confirmed Oct 7 to 11. But they further postponed this schedule,” Mr Shah deplored.

When something is mutually agreed at the state level, it shouldn’t be delayed or deferred on petty issues, he said, adding: “So we request our counterparts to fulfil their commitment they had made during their visit to Lahore last month.”

According to the minutes of the 115th meeting of the PCIW held between the two countries in Lahore, India had also agreed to allow Pakistani experts to visit its hydropower schemes in Jhelum basin, including Kishanganga project. “Pakistan also urged India to arrange for the Special Tour of Inspection of the projects in Jhelum basin, including Kishanganga, which has been pending since 2014, on which ICIW (India’s commissioner for Indus waters) gave his assurance to arrange the same promptly. Similarly, Islamabad also agreed to allow New Delhi [to] carry out inspection of the Kotri barrage over the Indus under Article VIII (4) (c) of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT),” read the minutes.

During the meeting, Pakistan also asked India to share information about potential projects at the planning stage for examination. “In this way any objections (if raised by Pakistan) can be addressed in the design at the early stage of planning instead of debating with India at belated stage when practically incorporating the requisite changes becomes a challenge,” according to the minutes.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2018