New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) Even as a Pakistani minister said that India and Pakistan will hold talks in Washington next month over two disputed hydropower projects in the Indus Valley, a senior official said on Friday that there has been no change in the previous Indian position on the issue.
“Let me categorically tell you that there has been no change in the previous Indian position on any of the matters discussed at the (Permanent Indus Waters) Commission meeting (held in Islamabad),” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in his weekly media briefing here.
“At this stage, it would be premature to talk of hypothetical contingencies,” he said.
Ahead of the Commission meeting held in Islamabad on March 21 and 22, Pakistani Water and Power Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said that the two nations would hold three-day secretary-level talks on the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects, under the aegis of the World Bank, in Washington from April 11.
“The US has intervened at the highest level to help both countries resolve the issue. There will be secretary-level talks on the Ratle and Kishanganga hydropower projects in Washington on April 11, 12 and 13,” Mohammad Asif said at a press conference in Islamabad on Monday.
“We are happy that India has finally agreed to resume talks at the commission level. We welcome this decision and the visit of the Indian delegation,” he added.
The 10-member Indian delegation that visited Islamabad for the annual talks was led by Indus Water Commissioner P.K. Saxena.
The Commission, which is mandated to meet at least once every year, alternately in India and Pakistan, comprises Indus Commissioners from both sides and discusses technical matters related to implementation of the treaty.
Pakistan has been protesting over the design and construction of two controversial projects – the 330 MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project and the 850 MW Ratle hydroelectric project – on the tributaries of the Indus in the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 and involves six rivers: the Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.
Brokered by the World Bank, the treaty gave the right to use waters of the first three rivers to India and of the other three rivers to Pakistan.
India has said it has the right under the treaty to set up hydropower plants on the tributaries of the rivers flowing through its territory. Pakistan fears this might reduce the water flow of the rivers into its territory.
The treaty had come close to being jeopardised following the cross-border terror attack on September 18 last year on an army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers.
Blaming the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed for the attack, New Delhi said it would consider revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty, which has withstood three wars and is seen as one of the most successful international agreements.
Baglay said that so long as India was a party to the treaty, it is its legal obligation to attend the treaty-mandated meetings held at least once every financial year.
“The Commission is a bilateral body of engineers and technical experts. They had detailed technical discussions,” he said.
“Our team has since returned and the deliberations and discussions at the (Islamabad) meeting are being assessed.”