India - Pakistan holds a key meeting

 The key meeting of India and Pakistan to discuss the Indus water sharing issue has started in New Delhi. This will also be the first meeting between the two commissioners after the nullification of special provisions under Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.  The annual dialogue is being held between Indus commissioners of the two countries. A seven-member Pakistani delegation led by the country's Indus Commissioner Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah arrived here on Monday. 

The Indian delegation is being led by PK Saxena and he has been joined by his advisors from the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation. The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) warrants the two commissioners to meet at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan.

 The meet, an annual affair, is being held after two years. Officials of India and Pakistan will discuss water sharing issues and address each other's concerns. India has cleared several hydropower projects in Ladakh while Pakistan has raised objection against them. 

The Current Water dispute:

Pakistan is concerned that India's plans for Pakal Dal and Lower kalnai hydroelectric plants in Jammu and Kashmir will damage the flow of the river, which feeds 80 percent of its irrigated agriculture, along with tributaries. India has defended the construction of the  dams, saying they are allowed by the Indus Water Treaty brokered by the world bank. 

Under the provision 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 water 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 rights to generate hydroelectricity through run of the rivers projects on the western rivers subjects to specific criteria for the design and operation. The Treaty also gives right to Pakistan to raise objections on design of Indian hydroelectricity projects on western rivers.

  Kishanganga project:  Pakistan has also raised objections to the building of the Kishanganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric plants by India, saying that they violates the provisions of the treaty.

India insists on its right to build these projects and hold that their design is fully in compliance with the guidelines of the treaty. The Kishanganga project had been in operation since 2018 while work on Ratle stands abandoned since 2014 due to a contractual dispute between the Jammu and Kashmir government and the contractor. 

After prolonged negotiations, India in 2016 sought appointment of a neutral expert to resolve this issue while Pakistan made a request for appointment of a Court of Arbitration (COA).  

In November 2019, after a meeting of the Indian delegation headed by Jal Shakti Ministry secretary with the World Bank to explore a way forward, it was agreed that the matter may be discussed by the two commissioners as per the Treaty provisions to decide the mode of resolution - by the CoA or a neutral expert.

The World Bank initially proceeded with both the process of appointment of a neutral expert and constituting the Court of Arbitration but later, in December 2016, it instituted a ‘pause' on both the processes to allow the two parties to bilaterally choose one option with the help of its good offices, sources said.

Under the Treaty, the World Bank only has a procedural role and there is no provision for the global financial institution to take an independent decision in this regard.

The pause is still continuing. 

— रचित



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