ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani delegation will inspect at least five hydropower projects in India this year to see if their designs were in accordance with the Indus Waters Treaty between the two countries, Pakistan’s commissioner for Indus waters said on Friday.
This week, Indian and Pakistani Indus waters commissioners held the first meeting in nearly three years in a sign of rapprochement in relations frozen since 2019 during disputes over the Himalayan Kashmir valley.
In the two-day meeting, the two sides have agreed to arrange bilateral visits to resolve controversies related to the use of shared water resources.
"We told them that we want to hold a tour of inspection on the Indian side, and they agreed to arrange two tours this year, one in Kishanganga and another in the Chenab valley,” Pakistan's Indus water commissioner, Syed Mohammad Mehr Ali Shah, told Arab News.
Shah said that the Pakistani delegation would visit five projects sites in Indian-administered Kashmir this year: Keru, Kwar, Sawalkot and Kirthai in the Chenab River basin, and the Kishanganga project in the Jhelum River basin.
The Indus Waters Treaty between Pakistan and India was brokered by the World Bank and signed in Karachi in 1960. It gives control over the waters of the three eastern rivers — the Beas, Ravi and Sutlej — to India, while control over the waters of the three western rivers — the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum — lies with Pakistan. Under the treaty, both countries can approach the World Bank for arbitration in case of disputes.
Shortly after the partition of the subcontinent into Pakistan and India in August 1947, tensions soared over water rights of the rivers flowing between them. Since the ratification of the treaty, both neighbors have not engaged in any water conflicts, despite waging full-scale wars over the Kashmir valley, which both claim in full and rule in part.
In recent years, however, India has begun ambitious irrigation plans and construction of many upstream dams, saying its use of upstream water was strictly in accordance with the treaty. Pakistan has opposed some of these projects saying they violated the rules of sharing the water resources upon which 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture depends.
“We also discussed the issue related to flood data and Indian side agreed to fulfill their obligation under the treaty,” Shah said, adding that further discussions will be held during the next commissioners' meeting expected to take place in Pakistan in May or in early June this year.
The overall environment of the meeting in New Delhi was "conducive, and headway is made as all these things which were to be discussed in meeting were deliberated threadbare," the commissioner said.
“The most important thing is that the obligatory meetings under the treaty stood restored which couldn’t take place last year due to the coronavirus," he said.
“The restoration of the meeting in itself is a good sign and both the commissioners have agreed to hold future meetings frequently."