New Delhi: Although India and Pakistan have been accusing each other of harassing their diplomats, the South Asian neighbours will hold talks over the sharing of river waters in New Delhi starting Thursday, two people familiar with the development said.
This will be the 114th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) that looks into the sharing of the waters of the Indus since the treaty—brokered by the World Bank—was signed by the two countries in 1960.
The Indus water treaty covers the water distribution and sharing rights of six rivers—Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. It specifies that waters from the three western rivers—Indus, Jhelum and Chenab—are reserved for Pakistan, while waters from eastern rivers—Ravi, Sutlej and Beas—are for India to tap.
As per the agreement, the commissioners have to meet once a year, one of the people familiar with the development cited above said.
India’s Indus water commissioner P.K. Saxena, technical experts and a representative of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) will be part of the Indian delegation for the annual meeting, the person cited above said.
Pakistan’s six-member delegation will be led by Syed Muhammad Mehr Ali Shah, joint secretary (water) in the ministry of water and power of the Pakistan government.
The meeting will be held on 29 and 30 March, a second person familiar with the developments said.
Issues relating to India’s Ratle, Pakul Dul and Lower Kalnai projects, located in Jammu and Kashmir, are expected to be discussed.
According to Pakistan, the 850 megawatts (MW) Ratle project, the 1,000MWPakal Dul project and the 48 MW Lower Kalnai project are in violation of the treaty.
“But India is very clear that designs of the projects are in accordance with the treaty,” the second person said.
The Indus water talks come in the midst of a spike in tensions due to alleged cases of harassment and intimidation of Indian and Pakistani diplomats stationed in the other’s country.
The frictions seem to have dimmed hopes of a thaw sparked by Pakistan accepting proposals from India for the exchange of elderly, sick and women prisoners earlier this month.
Bilateral peace talks between the two countries have been stalled since 2013 and efforts to restart them several times have run aground mainly over the issue of terrorism.
Hostilities have also been high over the violation of a 2003 ceasefire pact between the two countries. According to India, indiscriminate Pakistani firing has so far killed 23 civilians since the start of 2018, with 560 instances of violation. Seventy Indians had been injured, an Indian foreign ministry statement said.
A report from Islamabad on Wednesday said that the Pakistan army warned India of a response in case of any “misadventure” across the border.
“If India tried for any misadventure, then it will be responded,” Pakistani army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor was quoted as saying at a press briefing. Ghafoor also accused India of killing of 30 Pakistani civilians in 2018 in firing along the line of control.