• Pakistani team returns after holding talks in New Delhi
• Both sides reaffirm commitment to resolve issues through discussions under water treaty
LAHORE: At the end of two-day hectic talks held in New Delhi on March 23 and 24 on two controversial projects at the Chenab basin, India finally shared some information/documents related to 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydropower projects with Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) 1960.
India also agreed to provide flood-related data to Pakistan from time to time, besides getting the site of controversial Kishan Ganga hydropower project inspected by Pakistani experts soon.
“It was a good but difficult meeting. But, finally, we succeeded in making headway by raising/reiterating our objections to the design of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydropower projects being constructed at the Chenab basin by India,” Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Mohammad Mehr Ali Shah, who led an eight-member delegation for talks, told Dawn after returning home via Wagah border.
“And finally, they [the Indian side] provided some information, in writing, duly signed and stamped by them regarding the design of the aforementioned two projects. We may seek more information regarding the design [if required] as our engineering experts will examine the information provided to us,” he added.
The Pakistani delegation had left for New Delhi on March 22 to attend the 116th meeting of the Permanent Commission for Indus Waters (PCIW).
During the meeting, Pakistani side reiterated its technical objections to both the projects, requesting the Indian side to accept the objections and amend the designs as demanded under the treaty. The Pakistani delegation also provided some technical basis to justify the objections, urging the Indians to evolve a consensus.
According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, the discussions continued on the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai. “Indian side held that these projects are fully compliant with the provisions of the treaty and provided technical data in support of its position. Pakistan side requested India for sharing of information on design of other Indian hydropower projects being planned to be developed. Indian side assured that the information will be supplied as and when required to be supplied under the provisions of the treaty,” read a press release issued by the Indian ministry.
It said the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere as both the commissioners reaffirmed their commitment to interacting more frequently in an attempt to resolve the issues through bilateral discussions under the IWT. It was agreed to hold the next meeting of the PCIW in Pakistan on mutually convenient dates.
During the meeting, India agreed to get Kishan Ganga dam/project inspected by Pakistani experts. And reciprocally, Pakistan too allowed India to carry out inspection of Kotri barrage over the Indus under Article VIII (4) (c) of the IWT.
“We have asked them [Indians] to schedule their tour programme for Pakistan in this regard. Similarly, they also asked us to schedule visit to inspect Kishan Ganga project. We kept reminding Indian side to resolve the issues [changing designs of the controversial projects] under article-9 of the treaty,” Mehr Ali Shah said.
He said the Pakistani delegation urged the Indian side to also share flood-related data that was liable to be provided to Pakistani authorities concerned under the treaty. The Indian side, he added, assured the Pakistani delegation of doing so to fulfil this obligation under the treaty.
“We will fulfil all of our obligations under the treaty,” Mr Shah quoted the Indian side as having said during the meeting.
He said the next PCIW meeting, inspection of Kishan Ganga project by Pakistani experts and tour of Indian authorities to carry out inspections would take place this year.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2021