A 10-member Indian delegation arrived here today to take part in the meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) beginning tomorrow in the Pakistani capital. The delegation, which will take part in the two-day meeting, is led by India’s Indus Water Commissioner PK Saxena and comprises of Ministry of External Affairs officials and technical experts. Senior Pakistani officials and Indian High Commission officials greeted the delegation at the Wagah border. Media personnel gathered at the Wagah border were not given access to the delegation. The delegation later left for Islamabad by road amid high security.
Ahead of the visit, an Indian government source told PTI that India is “always open” to discuss and resolve concerns Pakistan has over its projects under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) bilaterally.
The source, however, reiterated that there will be “no compromise” on India exploiting its due rights under the 57-year-old pact. However, the agenda for the meeting, taking place nearly six months after India decided to suspend talks on the pact in the wake of the Uri terror attack by Pakistan-based outfits, is yet to be finalised.
Asked whether the delay in reaching consensus over the agenda for the meeting will leave little time to resolve issues, the source replied in negative.
“We always go into such meetings with optimistic mindset.. In the past too, there had been delays in finalising agenda for the meeting, yet solutions were achieved,” the source added.
The source also recalled how Pakistan’s concern over India’s Uri-II and Chutak hydroelectric projects were resolved seven years ago through discussions. Pakistan had raised objections over designs of 240 MW Uri-II and 44 MW Chutak projects, built in Baramulla and Kargil districts of Jammu and Kashmir respectively, saying these will deprive it of its water share under the pact.
However, at a meeting held here in May 2010, the neighbouring country withdrew objections after the Indian side provided details of these.
Similarly, Pakistan has been flagging concern over designs of India’s five other hydroelectricity projects — Pakal Dul (1000 MW), Ratle (850 MW), Kishanganga (330 MW), Miyar (120 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) — being built or planned in the Indus river basin, contending these violate the treaty. It had approached the World Bank, the mediator between the two countries of the 57-year-old water distribution treaty, in August last year raising issues over Kishanganga and Ratle projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
While there is no clarity yet whether issues relating to these two projects will figure during the meet as they are before the Bank, the source said Pakal Dul, Miyar and Lower Kalnai may be discussed.
According to Pakistan, designs of the three projects are not in line with the treaty, whereas India has maintained otherwise. The three projects, being built on tributaries of Chenab river, are in the pre-construction/under-construction stages. Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai are being built in Jammu and Kashmir at a cost of Rs 7,464 crore (November 2008 price level) and Rs 396 crore respectively.
Miyar hydroelectricity project, located in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul Spiti district, is estimated to cost Rs 1,125 crore. The Commission, which has officials from both the countries as its members, was set up under the treaty to discuss and resolve issues relating to its implementation. It is mandatory for the Commission to meet at least once in a fiscal, alternately in India and Pakistan.
The PIC had last met in May 2015 here.
India has already downplayed its participation in the meeting, saying it does not amount to “resumption” of government-level Indo-Pak talks. Declaring that “blood and water cannot flow together,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a meeting in September to review the treaty in the backdrop of the terror strikes, including the Uri attack. After that meeting, officials had announced that the government has decided to suspend further talks and increase the utilisation of rivers flowing through J&K to fully exercise India’s rights under the pact.