Pakistan to host next round of water talks

Pakistan will invite India for another round of water talks next month, Indus Water Commissioner Mehar Ali Shah said on Thursday, stressing that the dialogue with the neighbouring country on the water issues would continue in the future.

Talking to the media at Wahga border upon his return from India, Shah said that the Indian side listened to the objections raised by Pakistan on different projects on its rivers and promised serious review of such projects.

Shah attended the two-day water talks in New Delhi on Tuesday and Wednesday. According to the Indian external affairs ministry the talks were held in a “cordial manner” and both sides agreed to interact more frequently to resolve issues through bilateral discussions.

The meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) in New Delhi was the first since August 2018. “It is a good sign that India invited the Pakistan side for a meeting even during the tough times of Covid-19 pandemic,” Shah told reporters.

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During the talks, the Indus water commissioner said, the Indian side provided flood data for the monsoon season. He added that the Indian side listened to the stance of Pakistan seriously, which would help take the talks process forward.

“Pakistan will invite Indian officials for a meeting after April 1,” Shah said. “India has expressed willingness for the visit and will give us the names and dates for the site visits,” he said, adding that the meeting was expected before July, in which the flood data would be shared.

Responding to a question about Pakistan’s objections to some Indian projects, Shah said that the Pakistan delegation demanded of the host side to address those objections and resolve the controversial issues on a permanent basis.

Read more: Two-day water-sharing talks signal thaw in Pakistan, India ties

The Indus water commissioner for Pakistan rejected the perception that Indian hydel power projects were about to complete and made it clear that Lower-Kulnai and Pakal Dul projects would not be completed in near future.

In Islamabad, the foreign ministry said that both sides have agreed to make endeavours to resolve the issues, conduct tours of inspection and hold the next meeting of the commission in Pakistan at an early date.

“The 116th meeting of the India-Pakistan (PIC) was held in New Delhi from 23-24 March, 2021. Under the relevant provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), the meeting is held annually alternately in Pakistan and India,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Pakistan side was led by Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah, it said. A host of issues related to the IWT were discussed during the meeting. “Pakistan side reiterated its objections to the Indian projects, including Pakal Dul, Lower Kulnai, Durbuk Shyok and Nimu Chilling,” it added.

It said that the Pakistan side urged the Indian side to share data of water flows as per provisions of the IWT. “Pakistan side emphasised the importance of early resolution of the outstanding issues in accordance with the provisions of the IWT.”

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)