'India, Pakistan need to respect Indus Waters Treaty'

Islamabad, March 20
Both India and Pakistan need to respect the Indus Waters Treaty as it is in the interest of both the countries, Pakistan's Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif said on Monday.

"The talks, postponed since 2015, have resumed due to efforts made by the government. They are in the best interests of both neighbours," he said at a press conference as the 113th Indo-Pak Indus Water Commission conference commenced in Islamabad.

A 10-member Indian delegation led by Indian Indus Water Commissioner P.P. Saxena arrived on Sunday for talks, two years after water experts of the two sides at the level of Permanent Indus Commission met in May 2015, reported Dawn.

The Pakistani delegation is led by Pakistan's Indus Water Commissioner Mirza Asif Beg.

The two-day talks would focus on the designs, disputed by Pakistan, of the three controversial water projects being built on the Chenab river.

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 regarding the controversial Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects regarding which Pakistan has asked the World Bank to set up a Court of Arbitration to hear its objections, the newspaper reported.

Asif said delays had been witnessed in the past in the handling of the Kishanganga project, claiming 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.

The two sides would not discuss the controversial Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects, a senior official earlier told Dawn.

The talks would conclude on Tuesday and the Indian delegation would leave for New Delhi the same day.

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