India, Pak water commissioners to meet in Delhi after more than two years

Written By: Anas Mallick , Sidhant Sibal WION
New Delhi/ Islamabad Published: Mar 15, 2021, 05:38 PM(IST)

Chenab river Photograph:( Reuters )

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Under the Indus Water Treaty, the commissioners are required to meet annually to discuss issues. The last such meeting happened in Lahore in August 2018. 

The Indus Water commissioners of India and Pakistan will be meeting on March 23-24 in New Delhi, in the first such talks after more than two-and-half years.

Under the Indus Water Treaty, the commissioners are required to meet annually to discuss issues. The last such meeting happened in Lahore in August 2018. 

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. 

The Indian side will be led by Indian commissioner for Indus Waters Pradeep Kumar Saxena, while the Pakistan side will be led by Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah. There were no talks last year, the first such break since the treaty came into effect in 1960, due to the Covid pandemic. The year is counted from 1st April to 31st March. 

Speaking to WION, Saxena said, "We are committed towards full utilisation of India’s rights under the treaty and believe in amicable solution of issues through discussion."

Confirming that Pakistan’s objections to the design of Indian hydropower projects on the Chenab River will be discussed, he said a "resolution will be reached on these issues."

"Both the commissioners will also finalise the programme of tours of the commission on either side as well as schedule of meetings for the forthcoming year," he added.

A number of routine matters will also be discussed, including data sharing. The Indian side has suggested the meeting, with Pakistan agreeing to it.

Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudri has also confirmed the meeting, which is taking place in the backdrop of Indian and Pakistani forces agreeing to observe the 2003 ceasefire pact at the Line of Control.

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.

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