Water dispute

Respecting Indus Waters Treaty in the interest of both Delhi and Islamabad, says Pakistani minister

A 10-member Indian delegation is in the neighbouring country for bilateral talks on three controversial hydropower projects.

Pakistan’s Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif on Monday urged New Delhi and Islamabad to adhere to the Indus Waters Treaty. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a two-day bilateral meet on the matter in Islamabad, Asif said the discussion will focus on the three controversial hydroelectric projects being built on River Chenab, Dawn reported.

“To respect this agreement [the Indus Waters Treaty] and find a solution through it is in the interest of both countries,” Asif said. Indian Indus Water Commissioner PP Saxena has led a 10-member delegation to Islamabad for the talks, while the Pakistani delegation is being represented by Mirza Asif Beig. The Pakul Dal, Miyar and Lower Kalnai power projects will be the primary focus of the discussion.

The negotiations will take off from the last bilateral meet in May 2015 in Delhi.

The Pakistani minister also mentioned the Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects, for which Pakistan has been lobbying for intervention of the International Court of Arbitration through the World Bank. “When we [Pakistan] went to the court of arbitration, our position was not as strong as it could have been if we had approached the court in a timely manner.”

He said Pakistan’s position on the Ratle project is “very strong.” “We are working to make changes to the design of the project that are in Pakistan’s interest and which are in accordance with the treaty,” he added.

On December 12, 2016, the World Bank had suspended the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty to give the neighbouring nations time to mull over other ways to resolve their disputes. The commission meets every year to resolve matters related to its implementation.

The Indus Water Treaty was signed in 1960 by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the then Pakistan President Ayub Khan. According to the accord, India controls the rivers Beas, Ravi and Sutlej, while Pakistan holds reign over Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.

Following the attacks in Uri in September that left 19 Indian soldiers dead, Modi had said, “blood and water can’t flow together at the same time”, referring to the agreement. New Delhi had then decided to suspend talks with Pakistan over the treaty.

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