Pak delegation to visit India next week for Indus Commission talks

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Islamabad, March 20: Pakistan on Friday said that its delegation of water experts would visit India next week to attend the meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission and discuss various water-related issues.

The 116th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission will be held in New Delhi on March 23 and 24, Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry said at the weekly briefing here.

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“A host of issues under the treaty, including our objections on the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai Hydroelectric Plants, supply of information on new Indian projects on the western rivers and supply of flood data by India, will be discussed,” he said.

Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah will lead the delegation. The Indian delegation will be led by India’s Indus Commissioner P K Saxena with his advisors from the Central Water Commission, Central Electricity Authority and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.

This will be the annual meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission. Under the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty, both the commissioners are required to meet at least once a year alternately in India and Pakistan.

This will also be the first meeting between the two commissioners after the nullification of special provisions under Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The state was later carved into two union territories — Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Since then, India has cleared several hydropower projects in Ladakh.

They are Durbuk Shyok (19 MW), Shankoo (18.5 MW), Nimu Chilling (24 MW), Rongdo (12 MW), Ratan Nag (10.5 MW) for Leh, while Mangdum Sangra (19 MW), Kargil Hunderman (25 MW) and Tamasha (12 MW) have been cleared for Kargil.

India had conveyed the projects to Pakistan and the issue is expected to come for discussion during the meeting.

Last year”s meeting, which was earlier scheduled to be held in New Delhi in March 2020, was cancelled for the first time since the signing of the Treaty, in view of the pandemic situation.

India in July 2020 had proposed to Pakistan that the meeting to discuss pending issues pertaining to the Indus Water Treaty be held virtually in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but Pakistan insisted on holding the talks at the Attari check post.

However, India said it was not conducive to hold the meeting at the Attari Joint Check Post due to the pandemic.

The meeting will take place after a gap of nearly two-and-half years. The last meeting took place in Lahore in August 2018.

Meanwhile, asked about Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s comments that the onus to create a conducive environment is on Islamabad, Foreign Office spokesperson Chaudhry said: “Such statements are not helpful in resolution of the disputes which are a hurdle in the way of peace and stability in the region.”

“Our desire for regional peace was clearly spelled out by Prime Minister Imran Khan when he stated that ‘if India takes one step towards peace, Pakistan will take two’.

“The onus is, therefore, on India to create the enabling environment necessary for a meaningful engagement,” Chaudhry said.

He said Pakistan has always underscored the need for a meaningful dialogue and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes with India, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

The current situation in Kashmir is “neither tenable nor acceptable” and India needs to take corrective measures in Kashmir to move forward, Chaudhry said, adding that there is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on the issue of Kashmir that remains anchored in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.