Islamabad, Mar 20 (PTI) Officials from India and Pakistan discussed problems relating to Indus Basin at the two-day Indus Water Commission meeting which began here today after a gap of nearly two years.
The 10-member Indian delegation led by Indus Water Commissioner P K Saxena held a closed-door meeting with the Pakistani side which was headed by Mirza Asif Saeed.
During the meeting, Pakistan was expected to highlight concerns about the three Indian hydro projects being built on the rivers flowing to Pakistan.
They are 1000 MW Pakul Dul on Chenab, 120 MW Miyar, located across Miyar Nallah which is a right bank main tributary of River Chenab, and the 43 MW Lower Kalnai hydro project on Lower Kalnai Nallah, a tributary of river Chenab.
Pakistan contends that the projects were violating the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, which has come under strain during the current tension between the two sides.
Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai are being built in Jammu and Kashmir at a cost of Rs 7,464 crore (November 2008 price level) and Rs 396 crore respectively. Miyar hydroelectricity project, located in Himachal Pradesh's Lahaul Spiti district, is estimated to cost Rs 1,125 crore.
Today's meeting is the 113th session of the Permanent Indus Waters Commission which was established in 1960.
The last meeting of the commission was held in 2015.
Another meeting planned in September 2016 was cancelled due to tension following the Uri terror attack.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif urged India and Pakistan to respect the Indus Waters Treaty, saying it is in the interest of both countries.
The minister held a press conference on Monday as talks commenced in Islamabad with an Indian delegation regarding the designs, disputed by Pakistan, of the three water projects being built on River Chenab.
A 10-member Indian delegation led by Indian Indus Water Commissioner P.P. Saxena arrived on Sunday for two-day talks.
The talks will resume two years after water experts of the two sides last met in May 2015 in New Delhi at the level of Permanent Indus Commission. However, due to the tense bilateral ties, it could not hold mandatory annual meetings since then despite repeated requests by Islamabad.
The Pakistani delegation is being led by Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner Mirza Asif Beg.
Addressing the media, Asif said that the talks would focus on three power projects with varying capacities of power generation: Pakul Dal (1,000MW), Miyar (120MW) and Lower Kalnai (48MW).
"To respect this agreement [the Indus Waters Treaty] and find a solution through it is in the interest of both countries," the minister said.
The minister also spoke about the Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects for which Pakistan is seeking international court of arbitration (ICA) through the World Bank.
Asif said delays had been witnessed in the past in the handling of the Kishanganga project.
The minister claimed that, "When we [Pakistan] went to the court of arbitration our position was not as strong as it could have been if we had approached the court in a timely manner."
However, he added that the country's position regarding the Ratle project is "very strong."
"We are working to make changes to the design of the project that are in Pakistan's interest and which are in accordance with the treaty," the minister said.
"Since the Indus Waters Treaty was signed (in 1960), no dispute has been handled including the Ratle dam dispute," Asif said, adding, "We are in the position to fully protect our interests."
The two sides would not discuss the controversial Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects on which Pakistan is seeking international court of arbitration (ICA) through the World Bank, a senior official earlier told ‘Dawn’.