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India unlikely to attend meet on Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan in US

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-03-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: India is unlikely to participate in any meeting in Washington with Pakistan on the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) in April, as announced by the Pakistan government after a meeting of the Indus commissioners in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Two people familiar with the developments separately also termed as “incorrect” and expressed surprise at the reports emanating from Pakistan that cited senior Pakistani officials as saying that India had also agreed to halt the Miyar hydroelectric project in Himachal Pradesh.

Taken together, the comments signal the lack of any breakthrough between the two countries on the sharing of the Indus waters.

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On Tuesday, Pakistan’s minister for power Khwaja Asif told reporters in Islamabad that India had agreed to secretary-level talks on the Ratle and Kishanganga hydropower projects in Washington from 11 to 13 April.

This followed a 10-member Indian delegation led by Indian Indus water commissioner P.K. Saxena visiting Islamabad for talks with his Pakistani counterpart on the sharing of the waters of the river Indus between India and Pakistan–under the terms of a treaty brokered by the World Bank in 1960.

The Ratle and the Kishanganga are being constructed on the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, respectively.

Pakistan while objecting to the design of the 330MW Kishanganga project, says it will result in a 40% reduction in water flowing into the country, which it says is against the provisions of IWT. It is a charge India refutes.

In the case of the 850MW Ratle power plant, Pakistan wants the planned storage capacity of the project reduced from 24 million cubic metres to eight million cubic metres. It also wants the height of the dams to be reduced.

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Then there are objections by Pakistan to three other projects being built by India—the 1,000MW Pakuldul project on Chenab, the 120MW Miyar across Miyar Nalla which is a major tributary of the Chenab and the 43MW Lower Kalnai project on Lower Kalnai Nalla, a tributary of the Chenab. Except the Miyar project which is in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul Spiti, the others are in Jammu and Kashmir.

India had signalled its intention to review the IWT in September after a terrorist ambush attack on an army garrison in Uri in Kashmir killed 19 soldiers. Talks at the level of IWT commissioners have taken place more than 110 times since 1960—when the IWT was concluded—with the two officials meeting sometimes twice a year alternately in India and Pakistan.

“Blood and water cannot flow together,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quoted as saying at a meeting he chaired on the sharing of Indus water on 27 September in response to the Uri attack.

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