The inter-ministerial task force, set up by Modi government to look into strategic aspects of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan, discussed ways to fast-track hydropower projects of 8500 MW-capacity in Jammu and Kashmir during its first meeting held here on Friday. Chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principal secretary Nripendra Mishra, the meet was attended by NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa and Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar as well chief secretaries of Punjab and J&K.
“The issues of fast-tracking implementation of hydroelectricity projects in Jammu and Kashmir were discussed during the meeting. We discussed what will be the ways of financing and structuring of the projects,” top sources said. These projects including Tulbul Navigation, intended at developing India’s rights over both eastern and western
rivers, will require consent of government of Jammu and Kashmir, which is expected to get back to the task force next month on the issues discussed, they said.
“We will take it forward only when there is consent of the Jammu and Kashmir government. The state’s representative did not have mandate. So, the representative will speak to their Chief Minister (Mehbooba Mufti) and after that we can take the implementation forward,” they added. India has identified setting up hydroelectricity projects of a total of 18,000 MW capacity. Of these, 3000 MW have already been established.
The Centre now intends at further development of 1800 MW capacity projects including Ratle (850 MW) in the first phase. In the second phase, 5500 MW capacity projects are expected to be developed. “These projects are on both the Eastern (Beas, Ravi and Sutlej) and Western rivers (Indus, Chenab and Jhelum). We will develop capacities in accordance with our rights under the water distribution pact,” the sources added.
Meanwhile, on asked about the government’s meeting with World Bank expert to discuss Pakistan’s objection over Kishenganga (330 MW capacity) and Ratle projects being constructed in Jammu and Kashmir, the sources said a communique to this regard is “awaited”.
Pakistan had in September approached World Bank, flagging concerns that the design of the Kishenganga project was not in line with the criteria laid down under IWT. It had then demanded the international lender to set up a Court of Arbitration to look into the matter. Refuting the claims made by Pakistan, India had asserted that the project design is “well within parameters” of the treaty and urged the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert as the issue is a “technical matter” as suggested in the treaty.
The international lender had then set up two separate mechanisms of COA as well as the neutral expert, which India objected to. The mechanisms were then “paused” by the Bank in view of the objections. The inter-ministerial task force was formally formed last week, nearly three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meeting on the 56-year-old water distribution pact with Pakistan in the aftermath of series of cross-border terror strikes including Uri attack.
In that meeting, it was also decided that India would exploit to the maximum water of Pakistan-controlled rivers including Jhelum. Under the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 and to which the World Bank is also a party, the global body has a specified role in the process of resolution of differences and disputes.