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March 21, 2017

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Pak-India water dispute: US steps in

Pak-India water dispute: US steps in

 April 11-13 secretary level talks to be held in Washington on Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects; Pakistan hails Indian participation in talks on IWT in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: In a major development on the issue of lingering water dispute between Pakistan and India in accordance with the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), the US has decided to arrange secretary level talks between the two countries in Washington next month for resolving issues relating to two controversial hydropower projects.

These projects are 330MWs Kishanganga hydroelectric project and the under-construction 850 MWs Ratle hydroelectric project in occupied Jammu & Kashmir on which Pakistan has serious reservations.

Briefing the media here on Monday, Federal Minister for Power and Khawaja Asif said: “The US has intervened and decided to help both the countries to resolve the issue. There will be secretary level talks on the Ratle and Kishanganga hydropower projects between both the countries in Washington on April 11-13 2017.”  

The minister said on the controversial Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects, Pakistan was seeking international court of arbitration (ICA) through the World Bank whereas India wanted to resolve it through neutral experts.

Under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), New Delhi has to share all the details of any hydropower project on the rivers on which Pakistan has water rights under the IWT.

“No design of these projects has been shared with Pakistan, which is a violation of the treaty,” said the minister. 

Islamabad has serious reservations over the designs of these projects and believes they would impede the water flow to Pakistan.   

Asif also hailed India’s decision to take part in the current Indus Water commission talks on the IWT and hoped that the meeting would help resolve the standing issues between the two neighboring countries. 

On Monday, water experts from both the countries opened round-table talks here over the water dispute.  The Indian Indus Water Commissioner, P.K. Saxena, heads his delegation while Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner Mirza Asif Baig is leading the Pakistani side. 

Asif said during the current Indus Water Commission dialogues in Pakistan, three ongoing hydroelectric projects on Chenab in Held Kashmir including 1000MWs Pakal Dul project, 120MWs Miyar and 48MWs Lower Kalnai hydropower project will come under discussion.  

This two-day (March 20-21) Indus Water Commission meeting is taking place after almost two years, with the last round held in May 2015. 

The long pause occurred after Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner announced the failure of talks after protracted discussions at commission level in 111th meeting of PIC in Jan-Feb 2015 on the design aspects of Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric plants that India is constructing on Kishanganga/ Neelum River (a tributary of Jhelum River) and Chenab River respectively.

In July 2016, a high-level delegation headed by secretary water and power visited New Delhi to discuss these projects, but after inflexible attitude of India, Pakistan decided to go to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against India. 

This was the last-ditch effort of the Pakistani government to decide the issue with consensus, as for the last few years every time talks between both the countries on these two projects with Indian water commission have failed to reach any conclusion. 

In September last, Pakistan approached the World Bank amid Indian threat to revoke the 56-year-old treaty and requested for Arbitration Article IX of the IWT.  The Article IX deals with arbitration of disputes between both the countries concerning the interpretation or application of the treaty. Under the treaty, the World Bank has an important role in establishment of the Court of Arbitration.

The World Bank had earlier declared the formation of court and appointment of neutral expert, but ironically it announced a “pause” in both the separate processes initiated by Pakistan and India to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.        

 

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