Indus water talks begin amid political tension

New Delhi: An annual two-day meeting of the Permanent Indus Commis­sion (PIC) began on Thurs­day amid political tensions in which the pact frequently gets framed as a pawn.This is the 114th meeting of the PIC that looks into the sharing of the waters of the Indus since the treaty  brokered by the World Bank was signed by Pakistan and India in 1960.

Pakistan’s six-member delegation for the meeting is being led by Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah. The Indian delegation for the annual meeting comprises country’s Indus Water Commissioner P. K. Saxena, a representative of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and technical experts, sources said. The meeting comes in the backdrop of continuing tension between the two countries over a host of issues, including the alleged harassment of diplomats.

The PIC is an established mechanism under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), which mandates it to establish and maintain cooperative arran­gements for the implementation of the water distribution pact and to promote cooperation between India and Pakistan in the development of the Indus water systems. Commissioners are representatives of their respective governments for all matters arising out of this treaty. The meeting will continue on Friday when Islamabad’s objections on designs of some of India’s hydropower projects and other related will be taken up.

Pakistan has been expressing concerns over India’s Ratle (850MW), Pakal Dul (1,000MW) and Lower Kalnai (48MW) projects — located in the Chenab basin — contending they violated the IWT, The Economic Times said.India, however, has been maintaining that designs of these projects are very much in accordance with the treaty. Islamabad has also been expressing its concerns at Kishanganga dam and Wullar Barrage on the Jhelum river.

During Thursday’s proceedings, both sides shared information on flood data and administrative matters, the sources said. The IWT covers the water distribution and sharing rights of six rivers — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. The treaty specifies that waters from the three western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — are reserved for Pakistan, while waters from eastern rivers — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas — are reserved for India. The PIC had last met in March 2017 in Islamabad. The meeting of the PIC is held alternately in India and Pakistan at least once every year as mandated by the treaty.

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