The Indus Commissioners of India and Pakistan will meet here on March 23 and 24 to discuss a host of issues, including Islamabad’s concerns to the design of Indian hydropower projects on the Chenab River, a top official said on Sunday.
This will be the annual meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission. Under the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty, both the commissioners are required to meet at least once a year alternately in India and Pakistan.
“The meeting will take place in New Delhi on March 23-24,” P K Saxena, India’s Indus Commissioner, told PTI.
This will also be the first meeting between the two commissioners after the nullification of special provisions under Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The state was later carved into two union territories — Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir.
Since then, India has cleared several hydropower projects in Ladakh.
They are Durbuk Shyok (19 MW), Shankoo (18.5 MW), Nimu Chilling (24 MW), Rongdo (12 MW), Ratan Nag (10.5 MW) for Leh, while Mangdum Sangra (19 MW), Kargil Hunderman (25 MW) and Tamasha (12 MW) have been cleared for Kargil.
India had conveyed the projects to Pakistan and the issue is expected to come for discussion during the meeting. Saxena said that Pakistan’s concerns to the design of Indian hydropower projects on the Chenab river will also be discussed.
The last year’s meeting, which was earlier scheduled to be held in New Delhi in March 2020, was cancelled for the first time since the signing of the Treaty, in view of the pandemic situation.
India in July 2020 had proposed to Pakistan that the meeting to discuss pending issues pertaining to the Indus Water Treaty be held virtually in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but Pakistan insisted on holding the talks at the Attari check post.
However, India said it was not conducive to hold the meeting at the Attari Joint Check Post due to the pandemic.
With the improvement in the situation, this mandatory meeting is being held. All COVID-related protocols will be followed, Saxena said.
The meeting will take place after a gap of nearly two-and-half years. The last meeting took place in Lahore in August 2018.
The Indian delegation will be led by Saxena with his advisors from the Central Water Commission, Central Electricity Authority and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.
The Pakistani delegation will be led by Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah, Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters and his eight advisors.
Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the waters of the eastern rivers — the Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi — amounting to around 33 million acre-feet annually is allocated to India for unrestricted use and the waters of western rivers — Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab — amounting to around 135 MAF annually largely for Pakistan.
Under the Treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through a run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation. It also gives the right to Pakistan to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.
“India is committed towards full utilization of its rights under the Treaty and believes in an amicable solution of issues through discussion,” Saxena said.