Updated: March 23, 2021 7:23:13 am
Less than a month after India and Pakistan agreed to “strict observance of all agreements, understanding and ceasefire along the Line of Control and all other sectors,” both countries are again set to return to the dialogue table, with the annual meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) scheduled to begin in New Delhi.
The two-day annual meeting of the Indus Commissioners of India and Pakistan starts Tuesday.
The meeting is being held after a gap of more than two-and-a-half years – a period that witnessed Pulwama attack (February 14, 2019), Balakot air strike (February 26, 2019) and abrogation of special provisions under Article 370 that gave special status to J&K.
According to sources, during the latest round of PIC meetings, a discussion on Pakistan’s objections about two Indian projects — Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai – is expected to be held.
India is building Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project (1,000 MW) on river Marusudar, a tributary of the Chenab. The project is located in Kishtwar district of J&K.
The second project – Lower Kalnai – is being developed on the Chenab.
Routine issues such as flood data exchange mechanisms are also expected to be discussed during the meeting.
Pradeep Kumar Saxena, Commissioner (Indus), will lead the Indian delegation in the PIC meeting, while the Pakistan side will be led by Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah, the country’s Commissioner for Indus Waters.
“We are committed towards full utilisation of India’s rights under the treaty and believe in amicable solution of issues through discussion,” Saxena had told The Indian Express last week.
The meeting is being seen as a positive step after both countries agreed to “strict observance of all agreements, understanding and ceasefire along the Line of Control and all other sectors” last month.
The last meeting of the PIC was held in Lahore on August 29-30, 2018 – Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects were discussed then also. After this meeting, 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.
Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, the Commission shall meet “regularly at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan”. This regular annual meeting shall be held in November or in such other months as may be agreed upon between the Commissioners, states one of the provisions of the treaty.
The Commission was scheduled to meet in March last year but it had to cancel the meeting in view of the outbreak 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 to hold the meeting at the Attari joint check-post in view of the pandemic.
According to provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, all water of the eastern rivers – Sutlej, Beas, and the Ravi – amounting to around 33 million acre feet (MAF) annually – is allocated to India for unrestricted use, and water of 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 a run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation.
It also gives Pakistan the right to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.
India has cleared several hydropower projects in Ladakh: Durbuk Shyok (19 MW), Shankoo (18.5 MW), Nimu Chilling (24 MW), Rongdo (12 MW), Ratan Nag (10.5 MW) for Leh; and Mangdum Sangra (19 MW), Kargil Hunderman (25 MW) and Tamasha (12 MW) for Kargil.
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