Pakistan and India are set to resume stalled water-sharing talks later this month under a 1960 treaty that the Indian prime minister had threatened to scrap blaming Islamabad of promoting terrorism in the region.
Late last year, Narendra Modi had threatened to scrap the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) in an attempt to ratchet up pressure on Pakistan after accusing the country of being behind a deadly militant attack on a military base in Uri, in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir.
The annual meeting of the permanent Indus Waters Commission will be held in Lahore on March 20 and 21, the BBC Urdu reported on Thursday. The meeting originally scheduled for September last year had been postponed after New Delhi pulled out of talks while blaming Pakistan for the Uri assault.
Delegations from Pakistan and India, led by their respective Indus waters commissioners, would attend the meeting. The IWT makes it mandatory for the two countries to hold talks at least once a year. However, it could be held anytime on the request of the either side.
Officials in the office of India’s Indus Waters Commissioner PK Saxena confirmed that “the commissioner is busy preparing for talks scheduled for a few days later in Lahore”. A staffer at Saxena’s office said, “You should talk to water and power secretary Amarjeet Singh to get the official version on the issue.” However, Singh did not take any questions when contacted.
Pakistan’s Indus Waters Commissioner Asif Baig Mirza, while confirming the forthcoming meeting to the BBC, said the last meeting had been held between the two countries in May 2015.
The March meeting is important because as it recognises that the IWT is intact despite aggressive statements by the Indian prime minister. Pakistan has raised objections over the construction of the Kishanganga (300MW) and Ratle hydro projects (850MW).
It called upon the World Bank to constitute a court of arbitration to adjudicate on the issues raised by Pakistan against India’s ongoing construction of the two projects. Under the IWT, it is the responsibility of the World Bank to play its role without further delay.
Meanwhile Indian authorities said that New Delhi has expedited work on six hydropower projects in Occupied Kashmir that will cost more than $15 billion. A senior official of the Indian ministry of power, Pardap Kumar Pujari, told Reuters news agency that the projects were not purely meant for producing electricity.
He said they are also connected to important issues of defence and border management. He said money is allocated only after all these concerns have been taken into account.
Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner Asif Baig said he would ask his Indian counterpart for details of the projects during the talks.
Reuters quoted Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria as saying, “It seems that India has realised the importance of the Indus Waters Treaty and, therefore, she has decided to come back to the table of talks.”
Translated from Urdu by Arshad Shaheen