ISLAMABAD - Two-day talks between India and Pakistan on controversial hydropower projects being constructed in Indian-Held Kashmir will begin on August 29.

In a first high-level interaction after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led coalition government took charge, an Indian delegation led by India’s Indus Water Commissioner PK Saxena is arriving here today (Monday) for talks on water-related issues, official source told The Nation. Pakistani side will be headed by acting Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Mehr Ali Shah.

The meetings between the two sides will be held on August 29 and 30 in Lahore and would mainly focus on two power projects on River Chenab in IHK including Pakal Dul (1,000MW) and Lower Kalnai (48MW). Pakistan contends that Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects were violating Indus Water Treaty. Pakistan has serious reservations over construction of these reservoirs and the visiting delegates would share the New Delhi’s reply to Islamabad’s objections.

Under the Indus Water Treaty, New Delhi has to share details of any hydropower project on the rivers on which Pakistan has water rights under the treaty.

Earlier, Pakistan had also objected to 120MW Miyar hydropower project located in IHK on River Chenab but later, during the previous meeting, India had withdrawn design of Miyar hydropower project. Indian side had also agreed to reconsider Pakistan’s observations regarding Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai and to respond to those in the next meeting of the Commission. Pakistan’s prior objections were related to pondage, freeboard and spillway of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects.

The visiting Indian delegation will also share water data with Pakistan, the source said. The meeting will also decide about the schedule for future tours and meetings of the officials of the PIWC.

As per the official documents, in order to ascertain the facts connected with various developments and works on rivers of the Indus Basin, the Permanent Indus Commission undertakes tours of inspection of the rivers on both sides of international boundary or Line of Control (LoC) in India and Pakistan including Jammu and Kashmir. These tours are undertaken under Paragraph 4(c) and 4(d) of Article VIII of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960.

The IWT, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960s, is being implemented through Permanent Indus Commission (PIC). The two commissioners from both sides together form Permanent Indus Commission. Each commissioner is representative of his or her government for all matters arising out of the treaty, and serves as the regular channel of communication on all matters relating to the implementation of the treaty.

The federal government has failed to appoint permanent commissioner and has handed over the charge to joint secretary Water Resources Division, Syed Mehr Ali Shah, on ad-hoc basis. 

In May, the federal government granted additional charge of the post of Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters (PCIW) for three months or till appointment of a regular incumbent, whichever is earlier, to Syed Mehar Ali Shah. The then prime minister had also asked Water Resources Division to make efforts to fill the post in accordance with its recruitment rules within a period of three months.