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After two-year pause, Indus water talks take off between India, Pakistan

India is building the 1,000 MW Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project on river Marusudar, a tributary of the Chenab. The project is located in Kishtwar district of Jammu & Kashmir. The second project, Lower Kalnai, is being developed on the Chenab river.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 24, 2021 6:49:43 am
This year's meeting will be the first between the two commissioners after the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K. India has since cleared several hydropower projects for the region.

The Indus Commissioners of India and Pakistan met for the first time in over two years in New Delhi on Tuesday in a bid to resolve a host of outstanding issues under the Indus Waters Treaty, including Pakistan’s objections to the design of Indian hydropower projects on the Chenab river.

Pradeep Kumar Saxena, Commissioner (Indus), is leading the Indian delegation, while the Pakistan side is being led by Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah, the country’s Commissioner for Indus Waters.

While no official statement has been issued regarding the meeting, which began at 10 am and continued till 5 pm, an official said both sides “presented their views to each other”. The meeting is being seen as a positive step after both countries agreed to the LoC ceasefire last month.

“On the first day of the meeting, discussions on Pakistan’s objections to the Indian projects were held,” said the official, adding that the meeting would continue on Wednesday.

India is building the 1,000 MW Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project on river Marusudar, a tributary of the Chenab. The project is located in Kishtwar district of Jammu & Kashmir. The second project, Lower Kalnai, is being developed on the Chenab river.

“The Pakistan side expressed its concern regarding these projects. Both sides stated their position on the issue,” the official said.

This year’s meeting will be the first between the two commissioners after the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K. India has since cleared several hydropower projects for the region.

The annual meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission, being held in the backdrop of last month’s LoC ceasefire, was last held in Lahore, Pakistan, from August 29-30, 2018. Since then, relations between the two neighbours have witnessed a series of setbacks — Pulwama attack (February 14, 2019), Balakot air strike (February 26, 2019) and the abrogation of the special status to J&K.

At the last meeting too, the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects had come up for discussion. It was after this meeting that the Pakistan Commissioner of Indus Water led a team to inspect Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai, Ratle and other hydropower projects in the Chenab Basin on January 28-31, 2019.

Discussions on these projects have been going on since 2013.

Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, the Commission is to meet “regularly at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan”.

The Commission was scheduled to meet in March last year but had to cancel the meeting in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Later, India proposed to hold the meeting virtually but the Pakistan side insisted on holding the talks at the Attari check post. However, the Indian side conveyed to them that it was not conducive in view of the pandemic.

According to provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, 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 and the waters of the Western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) amounting to around 135 MAF annually largely to Pakistan. Under the treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run-of-the-river projects on the western rivers, subject to specific criteria for design and operation. It also gives the right to Pakistan to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.

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