IWT Talks: ‘Delhi May Skip US Meet’

SRINAGAR: India and Pakistan are set for another showdown over the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) with New Delhi finding the World Bank’s proposal of a secretary level meeting in Washington next month against the ‘spirit of the pact’.

Earlier this week, Pakistan water and power minister Khawaja Asif announced that the two countries would hold a “three-day ‘way forward’” meeting on the Ratle and Kishanganga projects in April in Washington.

Sources told the Hindustan Times, “India believes that there is no need to look for another mechanism to break the deadlock since the treaty already had a dispute resolution system built in it.”

India also believes the World Bank which brokered the pact in 1960 has lately been “biased” in following the treaty provisions. Sources indicated that India cannot be party to any meeting “which is against the provisions of the Indus waters treaty”, putting the Washington meet under a cloud.

These sources maintain that World Bank is playing the role of a ‘mediator’ whereas it should be a ‘facilitator’ between India and Pakistan to resolve the issues “in accordance with the provisions of the Indus waters treaty”. The World Bank had suggested the meeting of water resources secretaries for three days in April.

Sources familiar with the developments told HT that the World Bank proposal for the water resources secretaries meeting in Washington goes against the ‘spirit of the treaty’. New Delhi feels the World Bank continues to work against the spirit of the pact by initiating two separate dispute resolution mechanisms.

In the dispute of Kishanganga project, India wanted the neutral experts’ mechanism to solve the issue but Pakistan favoured arbitration. The World Bank had kicked in the two mechanisms at the same time, much to the anger of India last year.

Indian and Pakistani officials of the Indus water commission who met in Islamabad on March 21 and 22 could not make much progress on the issues. Indus water commissioner PK Saxena led the Indian delegation while the Pakistani side which was headed by Mirza Asif Saeed.

For the Indian side, the main issue now is resolving differences the over Kishanganga and Ratle hydro power projects.

The two projects are being constructed on the Jhelum and Chenab rivers respectively. Pakistan while objecting to the design of the 330 MW Kishanganga project maintains it would result in a 40% reduction of water flowing into the country, which it says is against the provisions of IWT. India refutes that charge.

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

But India maintains it never reduced the water flow to Pakistan.

Pakistan is set to raise issues related to three dams — 1000 MW Pakuldul on Chenab, 120 MW Miyar across Miyar Nalla which is a major tributary of the Chenab and the 43 MW Lower Kalnai hydro project — on Lower Kalnai Nalla, a tributary of the Chenab. “Pakistan has listed these three projects in their agenda for discussion,” said a source.

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