IWT talks resume, may revive stalled Indo-Pak dialogue

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Islamabad, Mar 20: The Indus Water Commission talks may lead to revival of the stalled peace talks between India and Pakistan, a media report quoted experts as saying today.
The two-day talks started Monday in Islamabad amidst tight security.
Dawn concluded that the talks could prove the first step to revive the stalled peace process between the two countries.
Though Indian authorities have publically downplayed the talks, saying these are just a regular meeting of the Indus Water Commission, the Pakistani officials have termed it of 'much importance'.
The significance emanates from a letter by Indian Indus Water Commissioner P K Saxena in which he proposed to discuss disputes such as the construction of the Kishanganga and Ratle hydro projects on the Jhelum and Chenab rivers by India.
Pakistan, however, has rejected this proposal as the matter has already been taken to the World Bank for dispute resolution. But officials here seem upbeat about the talks.
"These talks are important because India has come back to the table to discuss the issues after refusing for more than a year," said Mirza Asif Baig, Pakistan's Indus Water Commissioner.
"They were talking about suspension of the waters treaty but now they have come out of that paradigm," he said, adding that the Indian commissioner wrote to him to include the Ratle and Kishanganga projects in these talks but Pakistan declined the proposal.
"To respect this agreement [the Indus Waters Treaty] and find a solution through it is in the interest of both countries," the Dawn quoted Asif as saying at a press conference.
He said the talks would focus on three power projects with varying capacities of power generation: Pakul Dal (1,000MW), Miyar (120MW) and Lower Kalnai (48MW).
"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," he said.
Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, Pakistan s former commissioner, termed this meeting a 'step forward' from the former position but said it also showed Pakistan s helplessness on the issue.
"Though it’s a routine meeting and India is trying to use it to drag back the issues already taken to the World Bank for arbitration, it has highlighted the reactionary policy of Pakistan government," Shah said.
"In my view, Modi is successful in his strategy. They have stalled Pakistan’s arbitration efforts at the international level and have started six mega hydro projects on a war footing," he said.
Pakistan s former High Com missioner to India Aziz Ahmed Khan differs.
"It’s not verified that Modi has ever said to suspend the Indus Waters Treaty. Some Indian officials categorically denied this statement to me. So I think these Indus water talks are a regular feature and continuation of an ongoing process," he said.
Khan said that linking this meeting to the resumption of higher level talks between the two countries was inappropriate. He, however, viewed that some other move can be expected by the Indian Prime Minister to take the process forward.
"Electioneering is over in India and Modi may take any other dramatic step to normalise the relations, but we should not link this water commissioners' meeting to the resumption of high-level talks," he said.
Pakistan's foreign ministry takes this development as a bilateral initiative like other departments.
"Recently Indian parliamentarians were here to participate in an Asian parliamentary conference. Earlier the parliamentarians of both countries were together in Dubai for a conference organised by Pildat, so it’s not an indication that this meeting will pave the way for foreign secretary- level talks," says Nafees Zakaria, spokesman for the Foreign Office.
"For that India has to agree to discuss Kashmir and they are not showing willingness to talk about this issue so far," Zakaria said.
As the state elections are over in India, the subcontinent may finally see a chance for peace talks but some analysts believe that the landslide victory by the Indian ruling party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) may worsen situation as the Indian leadership will become over-confident.

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