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India, Pakistan may hold talks on 2 projects under Indus Waters Treaty this week

LiveMint logoLiveMint 31-07-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: India and Pakistan are expected to hold talks on issues related to two of India’s hydroelectricity projects under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) at the World Bank headquarters in Washington this week, a person familiar with the developments said.

The Indian delegation will be led by water resources secretary Amarjit Singh and will include officials from ministries of external affairs and water resources, the person cited above said, on the condition of anonymity.

Official dialogue between the two countries—who have fought four wars since 1947—has been at a standstill since 2013 and many attempts to restart it have come to naught, mainly due to Pakistan’s support for terrorist activities against India.

Also Read: World Bank assures ‘neutrality’ in India-Pakistan talks over Indus Waters Treaty

“Talks under the Indus Water Treaty do not amount to bilateral talks,” said a second person familiar with the matter, who too didn’t wish to be named. The two countries last held talks over the two projects in March this year during the meeting of Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) in Pakistan.

“The Washington meeting will be held as part of efforts by the World Bank to resolve the issues raised by Pakistan over India’s Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectricity projects,” the first person cited above said.

Pakistan had approached the World Bank last year, raising concerns over the designs of the two hydroelectricity projects located in Kashmir.

This follows India signalling its intention to review the IWT in September after a terrorist ambush attack on an army garrison in Uri in Kashmir killed 19 soldiers.“Blood and water cannot flow together,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been quoted as saying at a meeting he chaired on the sharing of the water of river Indus on 27 September in response to the Uri attack.

While outlining plans for the full exploitation of India’s share of the Indus water—the use of water of the three rivers to irrigate 912,000 acres of land up from 800,000 acres at present and exploiting the hydroelectric power potential of the three eastern rivers, estimated to be 18,600MW—senior officials of the government had then also said that the two Indus water commissioners will now meet “only in an atmosphere free of terror”.

On its part, Pakistan which approached the World Bank on this subject, as it is the mediator between the two countries under the 57-year-old water distribution pact was of the view that India’s new plans would mean a lessening of its share under the IWT.

“This week’s meeting is part of efforts to resolve these issues,” the first person said.

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