Pakistan and India, after a gap of nearly two years, have revived talks on a World Bank-mediated treaty that regulates sharing of the Indus river and its tributaries between the nuclear-armed rivals.
The two-day meeting of the Indus Water Commission began Monday in Islamabad and officials said the discussions focused on designs of three controversial hydropower projects India plans to build on the Chenab River.
Pakistan believes the planned Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai and Miyar power generation facilities violate the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, or IWT, and could disrupt water flow into Pakistan.
Eighty percent of Pakistan’s agricultural land is irrigated, and this irrigation depends on rivers flowing into the country from India.
India’s participation in talks welcomed
Pakistani Minister for Water and Power Khwaja Asif welcomed the Indian decision to attend the talks and said he hoped the meeting would help resolve bilateral issues under the IWT framework. He said that settling disputes under the historic treaty would serve interests of both India and Pakistan.
The minister said that flood data supplied by India and tour programs of inspection, as well as meetings by Pakistan and India to the sites of interest in the Indus Basin, are also on the agenda of the talks.
The last meeting of the commission took place in May 2015, but a spike in political and military tensions prevented the two sides from holding the usually-annual meeting in 2016.
Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi threatened to revoke the 57-year-old Indus Water Treaty. The bilateral treaty assigns the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej rivers to India, and the Chenab, Jehlum, and Sindh rivers to Pakistan.
Modi suggested that the sharing of water resources could be conditional on Pakistan preventing militants from undertaking cross-border terrorist attacks in India and divided Kashmir.
Islamabad, which denies Indian terror charges, condemned Modi’s statement and warned such a move would be viewed as an act of war.
Pakistan’s objections ignored
New Delhi also recently intensified work on proposed power station projects on rivers in Kashmir flowing into Pakistan, ignoring objections from Islamabad and warnings these projects will deprive the country of its due share of water.
While India has resumed talks with Pakistan on water-related issues, it has refused to resume a wide-ranging bilateral dialogue aimed at normalizing political ties and finding solutions to outstanding disputes, including Kashmir. New Delhi continues to cite Islamabad’s lack of action against anti-Indian militants.
The two countries have been locked in military skirmishes across the Kashmir border in recent months, raising fears of another war between India and Pakistan.