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Talks with India on Wullar Barrage put off

January 27, 2013

— File Photo
— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Two-day Pakistan-India talks on Wullar Barrage have been postponed amid renewed tensions between the two countries over ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC).

The water secretaries of the two countries were to meet on Jan 28-29 to discuss the dispute over Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project.

“The talks have been postponed. New dates would be conveyed later,” a Foreign Office official told Dawn.

Talks over Wullar Barrage would have been the first of a series of resumed bilateral dialogue this year. Many see the postponement as an unannounced suspension of the dialogue in its third round.

An official said Indian delegation had confirmed their participation and were due on Sunday, but have now sought postponement.

Tensions between the two countries flared when Indian troops launched a cross-LoC raid on a Pakistani post in Haji Pir Sector on Jan 6. Two more Pakistani soldiers died in subsequent ceasefire violations. There was also an attack on an Indian military patrol near LoC, which Delhi blamed on Pakistani military. The attack was denied by Pakistan Army.

Pakistani side has through statements by ISPR and Foreign Office repeatedly expressed desire for de-escalation and proposed a meeting of foreign ministers.

But, India has been keeping an aggressive stance as reflected by the statements of their civilian and military leaders.

Directors General Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries spoke twice over hotline, while the field commanders held a flag meeting to defuse tensions. Though military contacts helped stop ceasefire violations, the acrimony generated by the incidents is not going away.

Ceasefire along the LoC is one of the major confidence-building measures by the two countries that has remained intact all along despite ups and downs in the ties. The violations this year, 19 in total so far, have cast a shadow over the resumed process.

India suspended the on-arrival visa facility for senior citizens soon after its inauguration under the liberalised visa regime and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh told media it would no longer be business as usual with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s proposal for investigation into violations by UN Military Observers Group was also rejected by Delhi.

WULLAR BARRAGE DISPUTE: Pakistan considers construction of Wullar Barrage by India near Sopore in Occupied Kashmir Valley as a violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. Islamabad fears the barrage can disrupt water flows into Pakistan.

So far, almost a dozen rounds of talks have been held on the disputed barrage, but there has been no breakthrough.