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Pakistani officials to return today after water talks in India

LAHORE: A delegation of Pakistani water officials led by Indus Water Commissioner Mehr Ali Shah will return from New Delhi on Friday.

The team of Pakistani water officials had left for India via Wagah border crossing on Jan 27 to inspect India’s contentious hydroelectric projects being built at Chenab river.

They met their Indian counterparts after five months since the last year talks held in August under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed by the leaders of the two countries in 1960.

Official sources relayed that the Pakistani team inspected the 1000-MW Pakal Dul and 48-MW Lower Kalnai hydroelectric projects on two different tributaries of River Chenab by India.

In the previous round of talks in Lahore, officials from both the countries had failed to gain any progress over the river water dispute.

It had ended in a stalemate due to lack of flexibility from India. However, the Indian side led by its water commissioner PK Sexena had agreed that all issues between the two countries would be resolved under the Indus Water Treaty.

Later, they invited Pakistani officials to visit and inspect the two hydro-electric power projects.

It is pertinent to note that Indian Prime Minister Modi threatened to scrap the Indus Waters Treaty on several occasions in the past.

The Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was formed under the treaty which includes Indus commissioners of both the countries. The treaty provides both the commissioners a chance to meet at least once every year.

The treaty specifies that the waters of three eastern rivers namely Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, had been reserved for India whereas western rivers, namely Indus, Chenab and Jhelum, are for Pakistan.

The conundrum arises on the Indian claims that it has unrestricted rights to develop hydroelectric power projects on the western rivers.

Pakistan says that the design of two under-construction hydroelectric projects on Chenab Pakal Dul (1000MW) and Lower Kalnai (48MW), violate the river water treaty whereas Indian officials insist on their right to build these projects and contend that their design is fully in compliance to the treaty’s guidelines.

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