Pakistan, India reiterate commitment to implement Indus Waters Treaty

A wide range of water-related issues between Pakistan and India were discussed

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Islamabad (VOM): The 118th meeting of the Pakistan-India Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was held in New Delhi from 30-31 May 2022. Under the relevant provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) 1960, the meeting takes place alternatively in Pakistan and India annually. The 6-member Pakistani delegation was led by Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters, Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah. The Indian delegation was headed by the Indian Commissioner for Indus Waters Mr. A K Pal.

A wide range of water-related issues between Pakistan and India were discussed which included the advance sharing of flood information, the program of tours/ inspections and signing of the report of the Permanent Indus Commission for the year ending March 31, 2022. Pakistan also highlighted its objections on India’s Hydroelectric projects on the Western rivers. Response to Pakistan’s objections on Indian projects including Pakal Dul was also sought. The Indian side was also urged to communicate advance flood-flow information as per the provisions of the Treaty and the practice in vogue since 1989 until 2018. Indian side assured to arrange tours/inspections after the coming flood season. India side also assured that Pakistan’s outstanding objections would be discussed in the next meeting as the Indian side is still in the process of examining the details. Both sides reiterated their commitment to implement the Indus Waters Treaty in its true spirit and expressed the hope that the next meeting of the Commission would be held at an early date in Pakistan.

Pertinent to mention, As per the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, the two commissioners are required to meet at least once a year, alternately in Pakistan and India.

“A two-point agenda will be discussed during the meeting with Indian delegation, and we are expecting a positive outcome of these negotiations,” Muhammad Asim Akram, Assistant Commissioner for Indus Waters, told Arab News on Monday.

He said the Pakistani delegation would be finalizing an arrangement with India to get advanced flood forecasting data that would “help us mitigate and lessen impact of the floods.”

India has shared flood forecast data with Pakistan in the past, Akram said, but there was a “difference of interpretation” and India had now agreed to share required data as per Pakistan’s interpretation.

The second point on the agenda is the signing of the annual report of the Permanent Indus Commission, he said, which details progress between the two sides in the last year and possible issues to be discussed in the upcoming year.

The Indus Waters Treaty between Pakistan and India was brokered by the World Bank and signed in Karachi in 1960. The treaty gives control over the waters of the three eastern rivers — the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — to India, while control over the waters of the three western rivers — the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum — lies with Pakistan.

Under the treaty, both countries can approach the World Bank for arbitration in case of disputes over the use of water resources. Pakistan approached the World Bank in August 2016 to constitute a court of arbitration over two disputed Indian projects: the 330 megawatts Kishanganga and 850 megawatts Ratle hydropower projects.

The Bank has not yet set up the court as India has sought the appointment of a neutral expert to resolve the conflict.

Pakistan is also taking up two ongoing disputes with India – over the 1000MW Pakal Dul and 40MW Lower Kalnai dams – at the Indus commissioners’ level. Islamabad says it will take the issues to the World Bank for mediation if it fails to resolve them at the bilateral level.

“These disputed projects are not part of the agenda in this meeting,” the assistant commissioner for Indus Waters said. “They will be taken up in upcoming meetings with the Indian side.”

The issues could be discussed on the sidelines of the ongoing meeting, however, he added.

Shortly after the partition of the sub-continent into Pakistan and India in August 1947, tensions soared over water rights of the rivers flowing between them. Since the ratification of the treaty after nine years of negotiations, both neighbors have not engaged in any water wars, despite waging full-scale wars over the Muslim majority Kashmir valley, which both claim in full and rule in part.

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