India and Pakistan hold talks on Indus water sharing after two years

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Led by Pakistan’s Indus Commissioner Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah, a seven-member delegation arrived in Delhi on Monday for the annual Permanent Indus Commission meeting during which he will hold talks with his Indian counterpart, an official said.

The Indus commissioners of the two countries will hold the annual dialogue on 23-24, Press Trust of India reported.

The Indian delegation will be led by PK Saxena who will be joined by his advisors from the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.

The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) warrants the two commissioners to meet at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan. However, the last year’s meeting scheduled to be held New Delhi in March was cancelled, a first since the Treaty came into being, in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s meeting will be the first between the two commissioners after the August 2019 nullification of the operative provisions of Article 370 that gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

Pakistan is also likely to raise objections on the design of Indian hydropower projects on Chenab River whose water is largely assigned to Pakistan under the IWT.

Ahead of the meeting, Saxena said, “India is committed towards full utilisation of its rights under the Treaty and believes in amicable solution of issues through discussion.”

In July 2020, India had proposed to Pakistan that the meeting for discussing pending issues pertaining to Indus Water Treaty (IWT) be held virtually in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, but Pakistan insisted on holding talks at the Attari check post.

However, in response, the Indus said that it is not conducive to hold the meeting at the Attari Joint Check Post due to the pandemic. With the improvement in situation, this mandatory meeting is being held with all COVID-19 related protocols. The meeting will take place after a gap of nearly two and half years. The last meeting took place in Lahore in August 2018.

Under the provisions of Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the water of the eastern rivers – Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi amounting to around 33 million acre feet (MAF) annually — is allocated to India for unrestricted use. The waters of western rivers – Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab — amounting to around 135 MAF annually has been assigned largely to Pakistan.

According to the Treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation. The Treaty also gives right to Pakistan to raise objections on design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.

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