India today downplayed its participation in an upcoming meeting in Pakistan to discuss sharing of Indus river water, saying it does not amount to resumption of government-level Indo-Pak talks, which have been stalled over terrorist strikes by Pak-based groups. Senior government officials insisted the Permanent Indus Commission, which will meet in Lahore later this month, deals with technical matters concerning implementation of the Indus Water Treaty and not with any political aspect. India’s participation comes nearly six months after New Delhi decided to suspend talks on the pact in the wake of the terror strikes by groups based across the border. Noting that the commission has met 112 times since 1960, they said the Indian representative to the commission has accepted an invitation by his Pakistani counterpart for the meeting. No date has been set for the meeting.
“Mutually convenient dates and mutually agreeable agenda are worked out directly by the commissioners themselves and the government has no role in this regard,” said a senior government official. “The commission is not concerned with political aspects,” he said, adding that “there is no shift” in the government’s stance. 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 the meeting, officials had announced that the government has decided to suspend further talks and increase the utilisation of rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir to fully exercise India’s rights under the pact. The last meeting of the commission was held in May 2015. The commission, which has officials from both the countries as its members, was set up under the 57-year-old treaty to discuss and resolve issues relating to its implementation. The commission is a body entrusted with everyday implementation of the IWT, which mandates it to meet at least once every year, alternately in India and Pakistan.