Indus Commissioners’ meet concludes

3,153

New Delhi, March 25: The two-day meeting between India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty concluded here on Wednesday, during which Islamabad raised objections to the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources said Pakistan also sought additional information on hydropower projects in Ladakh sanctioned by India after the nullification of special provisions of Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Also Read:

“Discussions continued on designs of two Indian projects, namely Pakal Dul (1000 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW),” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. “The Indian side held that these projects are fully compliant with the provisions of the Treaty and provided technical data in support of its position,” it said. The annual Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) meeting took place here after a gap of over two years. The last meeting had taken place in Lahore in August 2018.

The MEA said the next meeting will be held in Pakistan on mutually convenient dates. The Indian delegation was led by P K Saxena, India’s Indus Commissioner, and his team included officials from the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation. The Pakistani delegation was led by its Indus Commissioner Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah. The delegation arrived here on Monday evening. The MEA said the meeting was held in a “cordial manner”.

“Both the commissioners reaffirmed their commitment to interact more frequently in an attempt to resolve the issues by bilateral discussions under the treaty,” the statement said. The waters of the Indus river and its tributaries are crucial to India and Pakistan and serve as a lifeline for millions of people of the two nations. This year’s meeting is the first between the two commissioners after the August 2019 nullification of the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The meeting also assumes significance as this is the first important engagement between India and Pakistan after militaries of the two countries had announced last month that they would strictly observe a ceasefire along the Line of Control and other sectors.

In 2019, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was also bifurcated into union territories — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

India has since cleared several hydropower projects for the region.

Hydropower projects in Chilling (24 MW), Rongdo (12 MW) and Ratan Nag (10.5 MW) are in Leh; while Mangdum Sangra (19 MW), Kargil Hunderman (25 MW) and Tamasha (12 MW) are in Kargil.

Both Leh and Kargil fall in the Union Territory of Ladakh.

“The Pakistan side requested India for sharing of information on the 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,” the statement said. The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) warrants the two commissioners to meet at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan.

Last year’s meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi in March was cancelled, a first since the treaty came into being, in view of the coronavirus pandemic. In July 2020, India had proposed to Pakistan that the meeting for discussing pending issues pertaining to the Indus Waters Treaty be held virtually in view of the coronavirus pandemic, but Pakistan insisted on holding talks at the Attari border checkpost. However, India said it was not conducive to hold the meeting at Attari due to the pandemic. With the improvement in the pandemic situation, the meeting was held following all COVID-19-related protocols. Under the Indus Waters Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the waters of the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi — amounting to around 33 million acre feet (MAF) annually is allocated to India for unrestricted use. The waters of western rivers — Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab — amounting to around 135 MAF annually has been assigned largely to Pakistan.