India, Pakistan to hold talks under Indus Water Treaty today

India and Pakistan on Monday will hold talks under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), after a gap of over two years.

The Indus commissioners of the two countries will hold the annual dialogue on March 23-24. The Indian delegation will be led by PK Saxena who will be joined by his advisors from the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.

The treaty warrants the two sides to meet once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan. However, the last year's meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi was cancelled in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, a seven-member Pakistani delegation led by the country's Indus Commissioner Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah arrived in New Delhi on Monday for the annual Permanent Indus Commission meeting.

"This will be an important meeting. We will engage with India in accordance with the Indus Water treaty. We are hopeful regarding this meeting," Mehran Ali Shah, Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters told ANI.

This year's meeting will be the first between the two commissioners after the August 2019 nullification of the operative provisions of Article 370 that gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The erstwhile state was also carved into two union territories -- Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

India has since cleared several hydropower projects for the region. Of these, Durbuk Shyok (19 MW), Shankoo (18.5 MW), Nimu Chilling (24 MW), Rongdo (12 MW), Ratan Nag (10.5 MW) are in Leh; while Mangdum Sangra (19 MW), Kargil Hunderman (25 MW) and Tamasha (12 MW) have been cleared for Kargil.

India had informed Pakistan about the projects. The issue is expected to come up for discussion during the meeting. Pakistan is also likely to raise objections on the design of Indian hydropower projects on Chenab River whose water is largely assigned to Pakistan under the IWT.

The meeting will take place after a gap of nearly two and half years. The last meeting took place in Lahore in August 2018.

Under the provisions of Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the water of the eastern rivers - Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi amounting to around 33 million acre feet (MAF) annually -- is allocated to India for unrestricted use. The waters of western rivers - Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab -- amounting to around 135 MAF annually has been assigned largely to Pakistan.

According to the Treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation. The Treaty also gives right to Pakistan to raise objections on design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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