India rejects Pakistan’s objections over hydro projects
India has rejected Pakistan’s objections to the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir and said both of them comply with the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960.
This was conveyed to the Pakistani side during a two-day meeting of the permanent Indus commission that concluded in the Indian capital on Wednesday. This was the first meeting of the commission in more than two-and-half years.
Pakistan has for long objected to the construction of the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects on tributaries of the Chenab river, saying their designs are not in line with the treaty.
“Discussions continued on designs of…Pakal Dul (1,000 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW). Indian side held that these projects are fully compliant with the provisions of the [Indus Waters] Treaty and provided technical data in support of its position,” said a statement issued by the external affairs ministry.
The Pakal Dul project is being built on Marusadar river, a tributary of the Chenab in Kishtwar district. Lower Kalnai is being built on another tributary of the same river.
The Pakistani side also requested that India should share information on the design of other hydropower projects being planned. The Indian side “assured that the information will be supplied as and when required to be supplied under the provisions of the Treaty”, the statement said.
The statement described the meeting as “cordial manner” and said India’s Indus water commissioner Pradeep Kumar Saxena and his Pakistani counterpart Mehr Ali Shah “reaffirmed their commitment to interact more frequently in an attempt to resolve the issues by bilateral discussions under the Treaty”.
The two sides also agreed to hold the next meeting of the permanent Indus commission in Pakistan on mutually convenient dates.
The treaty specifies that the waters of the three eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej) have been allocated exclusively to India. The western rivers (Indus, Chenab and Jhelum) are allocated to Pakistan, with India given rights such as agriculture, navigation, domestic use and unrestricted rights to develop hydroelectric power projects within the specified parameters of design and operations.
Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, which was brokered by the World Bank and signed by the two countries in 1960, the two commissioners are required to meet at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan.
The last meeting of the permanent Indus commission was held in Lahore in August 2018. The current talks were held against the backdrop of a thaw in bilateral ties, which had taken a hit after the 2019 Pulwama suicide bombing.
The meeting wasn’t held last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last month, the Indian and Pakistani militaries recommitted themselves to the 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, raising hopes for further improvements in bilateral relations.