The just-concluded 4-day meeting of the Permanent Indus Water Commissioners of India and Pakistan in New Delhi represents an important watershed in the history of water sharing between the two countries. At one plane, the meeting - 105th since the commission’s inception - between Indian Commissioner, G Ranganathan and his Pakistani counterpart Jamaat Ali Shah, dispelled the growing fears about the two countries’ water sharing disagreement snowballing into a full-fledged war. At another plane, the outcome goes to reinforce that if the two countries appreciate each other’s concerns in the spirit of cooperation and peaceful coexistence, they are in a position to sort out some of their most daunting disagreements in a similar fashion. That Pakistan gave its consent to the construction of two power projects, namely the 250-MW Uri-II on river Jhelum and 44 MW Chutak on river Suru a tributary of Indus in Kargil district, which have for long remained in the eye of controversy, is significant. What would also be really reassuring is that if the two countries in a similar fashion address the grave concerns of the people of Jammu & Kashmir on certain aspects of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). There must be ways and means to address those concerns before the two countries.
Pakistan Indus Commissioner Syed Jammat Ali Shah, while speaking to reporters, said that the projects that were approved in the meeting
were hanging “just for want of information for several years.” He also said that Pakistan had dropped its objections only “after examining new details about the projects on merit”, and that his country gave consent to the projects in the “spirit of cooperation and goodwill.” He further said that India had agreed to adjust the designs of both the projects to Pakistan’s satisfaction, paving the way for the agreement. Shah also said that free flow of information and transparency was necessary to maintain the tempo of cooperation. He also denied
that Pakistan was an impediment in the way of developing projects in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Officially, the two countries maintained that India had agreed to give an opening in the parapet wall of the Baglihar Power Project, addressing the Pakistani concern that water levels or storage could increase if parapet walls remained solid. Islamabad had earlier said that it was not getting 55,000 cusecs of water at its Mangala Dam reservoir when India filled up the Baglihar storage. India had contented that water as per the 1960 Indus Water Treaty was being provided to Pakistan without fail. On the issue, the agreement is said to have reached when India said it would keep in mind the concerns of Pakistan while filling up the dam in future.
Obviously, given the stakes, an agreement could not have been possible without some give and take on the issue. It is well known that Pakistan has, on several occasions, threatened to resort to international arbitration – something that India is quite averse to. Similarly, Pakistan must be clear that given India’s upper riparian advantage, it is also required to show flexibility. Although a mechanism for sharing advance information on floods and flash floods already exists between the two countries, the fact that both the countries agreed to fine tune the mechanism beginning July 1 is also significant. Despite these significant agreements, both the sides said that their differences over the 45-MW Nimmo Bazgo Power Project coming up on the Indus River in Ladakh remained. What is, however, to be underscored is the fact that India has agreed to provide requisite information to Pakistan within a week, which might eventually also end up in an agreement. This spirit of cooperation between India and Pakistan must eventually be extended to resolving their core issue of contention – the political future of J&K state. The recent agreement gives birth to new hopes that such an agreement
without external assistance is very much possible.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 4 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 4 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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