There is an update to the story. For the latest, click here
Indian and Pakistani officials are set to meet in Washington next month for talks on the Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects brokered by the World Bank.
Sources in New Delhi on Tuesday confirmed India’s participation in the talks between the water secretaries of the two countries during April 11-13.
Earlier, Pakistan’s water and power minister Khawaja Asif told a news conference in Islamabad that the talks were arranged through the intervention of the US and the World Bank.
“The US has intervened at the highest level to help both countries resolve the issue. There will be secretary-level talks on the Ratle and Kishanganga hydropower projects in Washington on April 11, 12 and 13,” he said.
The World Bank, which had brokered the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 and has a key role in helping resolve differences, will facilitate the meeting.
“We continue to work with both countries to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty. We would hope that the two countries will come to an agreement soon,” said Alexander Anthony Ferguson, World Bank’s senior manager communications (South Asia).
Asif, who spoke on the margins of a meeting of the Indus waters commissioners in Islamabad, said Pakistan is happy that India had agreed to resume talks between the Indus waters commissioners. “We welcome this decision and the visit of the Indian delegation,” he said.
Pakistan wants India to share the design of the Pakul Dal, Miyar and Lower Kalnai projects, he said, adding that “if they hurt Pakistan’s interests, then objections will be raised at the appropriate forum”.
Referring to the forthcoming talks in Washington, Asif said Pakistan will be in a position to protect its rights on the Ratle project, adding the country’s “stance had not been negated at any level”.
He refused to speculate whether the water talks could lead to the resumption of bilateral dialogue, which was stalled after a series of terror attacks last year that were blamed by India on Pakistan-based militants.
Pakistan has been protesting against the design and construction of the 330MW Kishanganga project and the 850MW Ratle project by India. Both sides took up the issue with the World Bank.
New Delhi took strong exception to the World Bank’s decision to set up a court of arbitration, as desired by Pakistan, and to also appoint a neutral expert, as wanted by India, over the two projects. It said proceeding with both steps simultaneously was “legally untenable”.
The World Bank then paused the separate processes to allow the two sides to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.
The water secretaries of India and Pakistan last met in July 2016 in New Delhi but the discussions were inconclusive.