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India pushes for power projects on rivers flowing into Pakistan

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 27, 2018

The Indian delegation headed by PK Saxena (left), in talks with his Pakistani counterpart Mirza Asif Saeed, in Islamabad on Monday   -  Anjum Naveed

Islamabad seeks time at Indus Water Treaty talks happening after two years

India on Monday pushed for building new hydropower plants even as it discussed exercising its rights under the Indus Water Treaty during the two-day Indus Water Commission meeting that began in Pakistan today.

The meeting of the commission, which took place after almost two years, was held in the backdrop of India threatening to suspend official-level talks on the World Bank-mediated treaty of 1960.

India was represented by a 10-member delegation, consisting of officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and experts, led by Indus Water Commissioner PK Saxena.

During the meeting, India is reported to have informed the Pakistan side that it would expedite the hydro power projects on the rivers that are flowing into Pakistan. But it seems Pakistan had raised some objections to it and has sought more time to discuss the matter, sources told BusinessLine.

The Pakistan government is believed to have also informed India that the projects are in violation of the basic tenets of the treaty. The Indian side is also believed to have told Pakistan that it intends to review the treaty and that it wants to “fully utilise” the rights given to India under the treaty, sources added.

“While Pakistan has raised objections against India’s water projects on the Indus rivers, the reality is that India is merely utilising the provisions of the treaty that it has traditionally not been able to, thanks to a lack of adequate infrastructure.

“The post-Uri rhetoric by the Modi government about the suspension of the PIC was nothing but a charade. Undoing the treaty is not something New Delhi can afford to do, but building infrastructure on the rivers for non-consumptive purposes, which the treaty allows, is something it should,” said Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor of Disarmament Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Last year, India threatened to suspend the commissioner-level talks following the Uri attacks in September last year. This led India to put its focus on the treaty even as it plans to push the projects proposed across Jammu and Kashmir.

These projects are — Pakal Dul (1000 MW), Ratle (850 MW), Kishanganga (330 MW), Miyar (120 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) on the River Chenab. Pakistan is opposed to other two projects proposed by India – Kishenganga and Ratle. Under the policy, India has the right to draw waters from the rivers flowing into Pakistan for hydro power generation.

Sources said Pakistan also had serious objections to India’s plans to build these plants apart from raising issues over the proposed projects that are planned for J&K. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are expected to discuss this issue if they meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation meet, scheduled in June in Astana.

“Pakistan is getting a lot of water because India has not utilised the treaty fully. We are drawing only 30 per cent of the water. If we utilise it fully, India will be able to give more water and electricity to Kashmir. This won’t impact Pakistan,” said Arun Sahgal, Senior Fellow, Delhi Policy Group.

Under Article VIII of the Indus Water Treaty, the Indus Water Commission must meet once a year alternately in India and Pakistan.

Published on March 20, 2017

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