Islamabad: Pakistani and Indian experts have opened round-table talks in Islamabad over water disputes between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Pakistan’s minister for water and hydroelectric power, Khawaja Asif, on Monday welcomed the Indian delegation, saying he hopes the two days of meetings will move the issue forward in anticipation of continued talks on April 12 in Washington.
Both sides signed the Indus Water Treaty in 1960, brokered by the World Bank, to share the vast water resources from the Indus River system, which supplies water to both countries. The treaty requires annual meetings but none have been held since 2015 because of tense relations.
The World Bank backed out of mediating the talks, forcing Pakistan and India to resume direct negotiations.
The meeting took place after a gap of nearly two years.
The 10-member Indian delegation led by Indus Water Commissioner P.K. Saxena held a close door meeting with the Pakistani side which was headed by Mirza Asif Saeed.
During the meeting, Pakistan was expected to highlight concerns about the three Indian hydro projects being built on the rivers flowing to Pakistan.
They are 1,000MW Pakul Dul on Chenab, 120MW Miyar, located across Miyar Nalla which is a right bank main tributary of River Chenab, and the 43MW Lower Kalnai hydro project on Lower Kalnai Nalla, a tributary of river Chenab.
Pakistan contends that the projects were violating the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, which has come under strain during the current tension between the two sides.
Papal Dul and Lower Kalnai are being built in Jammu and Kashmir at a cost of 74.64 billion Indian rupees (Dh4.19 billion; November 2008 price level) and Rs3.96 billion respectively. Miyar hydroelectricity project, located in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul Spiti district, is estimated to cost Rs11.25 billion.
Monday’s meeting is the 113th session of the Permanent Indus Waters Commission which was established in 1960.
The last meeting of the commission was held in 2015.
Another meeting planned in September 2016 was cancelled due to tension following the Uri terror attack by Pakistan-based outfits.
Pakistan’s Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif said that Indus Waters Treaty is one of world agreements, which provides amicable solution of serious water issues between Pakistan and India.
Addressing a news conference here, Asif on Monday said Secretary level talks on Ratle hydroelectric plant will begin on 12th of next month in Washington between the two countries.
Asif expressed the hope that things will move in the positive direction as a result of meeting between Permanent Indus Commissioners of Pakistan and India.
He said outstanding problems relating to Indus Basin will be discussed during the meeting, Radio Pakistan reported.
Khawaja Asif said the two-day meeting will discuss the design aspects of Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai and Miyar hydroelectric plants, flood data supply by India.
He said Pakistan has welcomed the readiness of India for talks at Indus Water Commissioners level.
To a question, he said Pakistan is pressing for implementation of arbitration court’s decision on Kishanganga.