Close on the heels of India-Pakistan armies recommitting themselves to the 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indus Commissioners of India and Pakistan are meeting for the first time in almost two years. The two day mandatory meeting is being held with all COVID-19 related protocols in New Delhi.
The meeting being held in New Delhi is in a bid to resolve a host of outstanding issues under the Indus Waters Treaty. This also includes objections raised by Pakistan to the design of Indian hydropower projects on the Chenab River and projects that India has announced in Jammu & Kashmir.
What is India building on the Chenab River?
1,000 MW Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project on river Marusudar, which is a tributary of the Chenab. And this project is located in Kishtwar district of Jammu & Kashmir.
Also, there is another project being developed on the Chenab River at Lower Kalnai.
What has changed when the last meeting had taken place in Lahore Pakistan in 2018?
The relations between the two countries worsened — Pulwama attack on February 14, 2019 and then Balakot air strike on February 26, 2019 and the abrogation of the special status to J&K in August 2019.
Who all are sitting in the talks?
The Indian delegation is led by Pradeep Kumar Saxena, Commissioner (Indus) and advisors from Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation. The Pakistan side is being led by Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah.
Importance of the meeting
India believes in amicable solutions through discussions.
After the nullification of the operative provisions in Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir on August 5, 2019, this is the first meeting since then. And from that time onwards India has cleared several hydropower projects for the region and has informed Pakistan about these. The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided in two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
The Hydropower projects India has approved for the region
Projects include: Mangdum Sangra (19 MW), Kargil Hunderman (25 MW) and Tamasha (12 MW) have been cleared for Kargil.
And, in Leh — Durbuk Shyok (19 MW); Shankoo (18.5 MW); Nimu Chilling (24 MW); Rongdo (12 MW); Ratan Nag (10.5 MW).
More about The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)
As per the treaty the two commissioners are to meet at least one time in a year and the venues will be alternate countries. Unfortunately due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, in 2020, the commissioners could not meet last March.
Last July, amidst the global lockdown, India had suggested the two sides discuss pending issues related to IWT virtually. However, Pakistan had insisted on meeting in person at the Attari check post.
What are the provisions of the treaty inked in 1960?
All the water of the eastern rivers – Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi which amounts to around 33 million acre-feet (MAF) annually — is allocated to India and is for unrestricted use. And the water of western rivers – Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab which is around 135 MAF annually has been assigned mostly to Pakistan.
India has the right under the Treaty to generate hydroelectricity through run of the river projects on the western rivers. These are subject to specific criteria for design and operation. And, under the Treaty Pakistan has the right to raise objections on design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.
India-Pakistan Relations in March 2021
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written to Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan extending his greetings to the people of that country on the occasion of Pakistan Day.
“As a neighbouring country, India desires cordial relations with the people of Pakistan. It is imperative that there is an environment of trust, devoid of terror and hostility,” PM Modi said in the note which has been sent. This is a letter which is routinely sent every year.
According to reports, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, last week said “India is committed to addressing issues, if any bilaterally. India is keen on having good neighbourly ties with Pakistan and a meaningful dialogue can be held when there is a conducive atmosphere.”
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, says, “Congratulating leaders and their people on their National Days is a standard diplomatic protocol and practice. PM Modi’s good wishes to the people of Pakistan may be seen in this context .Recently I’m a tweet he had also wished speedy recovery to PM Imran Khan who contracted Covid . However, as several reports suggest that the relationship between the two countries may be inching towards normalcy has given rise to some speculations . Anyways an indefinite disconnect between the two neighbours could also be counterproductive. However, it is imperative that Pakistan tries to genuinely addresses India’s sole concern of cross border terrorism for any sustainable peace.”