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Explained: India, key talks on water exchange in Pakistan | India News

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NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan are holding talks on the Indus Water Treaty after a lapse of more than two years and are likely to discuss a number of issues, including the neighboring country’s objections to the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on the river Chenab.
Before the talks, an Indian official told Reuters that the prospects for a breakthrough between the two countries are low.
Here’s everything you need to know …
The current dispute
Pakistan is concerned that India’s plans for the Pakal Dal and Lower Kalnai hydroelectric plants in Jammu and Kashmir will damage the flow of the river, which feeds 80% of its irrigated agriculture, along with tributaries.
India has defended the construction of the dams, saying they are allowed by the Indus Water Treaty negotiated by the World Bank.
Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all water from the eastern rivers (Sutlej, Beas and Ravi, amounting to around 33 million acre-feet (MAF) annually) it is assigned to India for unrestricted use.
The waters of the western rivers (Indo, Jhelum and Chenab), which amount to around 135 MAF annually, have largely been allocated to Pakistan.
Under the Treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectric power through river projects on western rivers subject to specific design and operation criteria. The Treaty also entitles Pakistan to raise objections to the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.
Kishanganga Project
Pakistan has also raised objections to India’s construction of the Kishanganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric plants, saying they violate the provisions of the treaty.
India insists on its right to build these projects and maintains that their design fully complies with the treaty guidelines.
The Kishanganga project had been in operation since 2018, while work on the Ratle posts abandoned since 2014 due to a contract dispute between the Jammu and Kashmir government and the contractor.
After lengthy negotiations, India requested in 2016 the appointment of a neutral expert to resolve this issue, while Pakistan requested the appointment of a Court of Arbitration (COA).
In November 2019, after a meeting of the Indian delegation headed by Ministry Secretary Jal Shakti with the World Bank to explore a way forward, it was agreed that the matter could be discussed by the two commissioners in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty to decide how to proceed. resolution – by the CoA or a neutral expert.
The World Bank initially proceeded with both the process of appointing a neutral expert and the constitution of the Court of Arbitration, but later, in December 2016, instituted a ‘pause’ in both processes to allow the two parties to choose bilaterally. an option with the help of their good offices, the sources said.
Under the Treaty, the World Bank has only a procedural role and there is no provision for the global financial institution to make an independent decision in this regard.
The pause still continues.
Other issues
The Indian delegation is headed by PK Saxena, who will be joined by his advisers from the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.
The Pakistani delegation is led by its Indus Commissioner, Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah. The delegation arrived here on Monday night.
This year’s meeting will be the first between the two commissioners after the cancellation in August 2019 of the operational provisions of Article 370 that granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The old state was also divided into two union territories: Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Since then, India has approved several hydroelectric projects for the region.
Of these, Durbuk Shyok (19 MW), Shankoo (18.5 MW), Nimu Chilling (24 MW), Rongdo (12 MW), Ratan Nag (10.5 MW) are in Leh; while Mangdum Sangra (19 MW), Kargil Hunderman (25 MW) and Tamasha (12 MW) have been licensed for Kargil.
India had informed Pakistan about the projects. The issue is expected to be discussed during the meeting.
Why the meeting was not held last year
The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) ensures that the two commissioners meet at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan.
However, last year’s meeting scheduled to take place in New Delhi in March was canceled, for the first time since the Treaty entered into force, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
In July 2020, India had proposed to Pakistan that the meeting to discuss unfinished business related to the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) be held practically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but Pakistan insisted on holding talks at the post. control of Attari.
However, in response, India said that it is not conducive to holding the meeting at the Attari Joint Verification Post due to the pandemic. With the improvement of the situation, this mandatory meeting is being carried out with all the protocols related to Covid-19.
The last meeting took place in Lahore in August 2018.
Thaw ties?
The meeting also comes at a time when both nations are taking cautious steps to improve ties, which have been on the decline in recent years.
The Bloomberg news agency and Foreign Policy magazine have reported that the United Arab Emirates, with whom both India and Pakistan have close ties, may have played a role in secret efforts to achieve detente.
Last month, India and Pakistan announced a rare agreement to stop shooting at the disputed Kashmir border, which according to Bloomberg was also the result of talks brokered by the United Arab Emirates.
(With input from PTI, Reuters)

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