Officials from Pakistan off to New Delhi for negotiations on Indus waters

Officials from Pakistan off to New Delhi for negotiations on Indus waters
River Indus flows through Leh, in the Ladakh region. — Reuters/File

Pakistan and India are set to resume delayed negotiations over a prolonged water dispute from Tuesday amid intensified hostilities between the two arch-foes, primarily on Kashmir.

An eight-member Pakistani commission led by Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters Meher Ali Shah left for New Delhi on Monday to hold negotiations with the Indian side headed by P. K. Saxena under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, after a break of over two years, according to a spokesperson for the water ministry.

During the two-day negotiations, Islamabad is likely to raise concerns to four power plans on the Chenab River, one of the six rivers mutually shared by the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

“We stand our opinion with-respect-to four controversial Indian hydroelectric projects including Pakal Dul and Ratle power project,” Shah had stated last week.

The building of contentious Pakal Dul Dam is now under way on a stream of the River Chenab by the Indian authorities in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.

In The Meantime, one of the Indian officials, who asked to stay anonymous, replied the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects along with a duo of others — which Pakistan is apprehensive would harm the stream of water downstream — were in line with the terms of the pact.

“We will talk about to allay those concerns, we consider in an cordial resolution,” the official told Reuters.

The last round of negotiations was held in Lahore in 2018 and culminated with no headway over the long-running dispute.

Under the Indus Water Treaty, the two committees should meet up each year interchangeably in Pakistan and India.

A ministry spokesperson, talking on situation of privacy, told Anadolu Agency that the interruption was caused due to New Delhi’s one-sided ditching of the enduring special status of captured Jammu and Kashmir and the coronavirus pandemic.

After the 2018 meeting, a Pakistani commission was welcomed by India to examine the locations of the hydroelectric projects being built by India on Pakistani rivers.

Later in February 2019, Pakistani professionals led by the commissioner on Indus waters had checked four hydropower projects at Chenab basin in India, including Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai, 850MW Ratlay and 900MW Baglihar dams. The building work on Pakal Dul dam, which was earlier halted, had restarted at that time.

The two longtime competitors divide the water of six rivers under the Indus Water Treaty, a water-sharing pact brokered by the World Bank in 1960.

Under the deal, the waters of the eastern rivers — the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — have been allotted to India, while Pakistan has been granted jurisdiction over the three western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab.

Pakistan indicts India of “constantly” breaching the treaty by constructing dams on the western rivers, although New Delhi believes Islamabad rules more water than it as a result of the treaty.

Tuesday’s meeting is seen as a crucial development in the wake of fresh declarations by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa in which they restated Pakistan’s position on the liaison with India and called for resolve of the disputes through negotiation. Both the Pakistani leaders have however asked India to take the first step by acceding to settle the Kashmir issue corresponding to the wishes of its citizens.

India is also confined in a water disagreement with China on Beijing’s construction of dams and planned diversion of the Brahmaputra River, which instigates in Tibet and satisfies a third of India’s requirements for irrigation.