India, Pakistan to hold first meeting in three years on water-sharing rights

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Mar 22, 2021, 05:29 PM IST


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Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri confirmed the talks will take place

India and Pakistan will hold the first meeting in three years of a commission that deals with water rights on the Indus River on Tuesday, the two sides said on Monday, illustrating a broader resumption of diplomatic ties.

The Permanent Indus Commission, set up under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, is set to meet in New Delhi on March 23 to 24, said two Indian officials that deal in bilateral water issues.

Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri confirmed the talks will take place. He noted that the Commission is supposed to meet at least once a year under the treaty that governs water usage on the Indus and its tributaries that flow through the two countries.

This month's talks will see both sides sitting with each other for the first time since developments in 2019 such as the Pulwama terror attack and the removal of special status for the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

But over the past few weeks, the two governments have made tentative efforts to re-engage and calm the borders as they struggle to extricate their countries from the worst economic downturn ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Indian side will be led by the Indian Commissioner for Indus Waters Pradeep Kumar Saxena, while the Pakistan side will be led by Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah.

What is the Indus Valley treaty?

Under the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, around 3 million acre-feet (MAF)  of waters from three eastern rivers - Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi- are allocated to India for unrestricted use while around 135 MAF from three western rivers - Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab- go to Pakistan annually.

The treaty also says that New Delhi has the right to generate hydroelectricity through the run of the river projects on the three western rivers, which is subject to specific criteria for design and operation. Pakistan can raise objections on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers. In the past, several issues have been resolved, but either side can also go to neutral experts or courts. 

Pakistan, being a lower riparian state, has objected to certain Indian projects on Chenab, which it is expected to raise during the upcoming meeting. 

This is the 116th meeting of the Indus Water Commissioners, which alternates between the two countries. Last March, a meeting was scheduled in Delhi but did not happen due to Covid. India had proposed a virtual meeting in July 2020 while Islamabad was keen to hold it at Attari check post, but this also could not happen due to the pandemic.