Indo-Pak Meet On Kishenganga Today
6 May 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Islamabad: Water officials from India and Pakistan would hold two-day talks in Lahore from tomorrow to resolve differences over the Kishenganga hydro-power project, planned to be built by India over Jhelum river in Jammu and Kashmir. Officials from the permanent Indus Water Commissions of both countries, who earlier failed to resolve differences over the Baglihar project, would begin a new exercise tomorrow to iron out differences this time over the Kishenganga project under the provisions of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. In the run-up to the talks, Pakistani officials said that unlike parleys over Baglihar, which went on for years, they would be insisting on a time-bound resolution of differences on Kishenganga through bilateral talks, failing which they preferred to approach the World Bank, like they did in the case of Baglihar, for international arbitration. Pakistan may suggest a time line of one to three months to sort out the differences, the Commissioner of Pakistan's permanent Indus Waters Commission, Jamat Ali Shah, was quoted in the media here as saying. Both sides had held preliminary talks on the project last year. The bilateral talks were essential under the provisions of the Indus Treaty before either of the parties moved for arbitration under the aegis of World Bank which was given the status of arbitrator under the treaty. The Kishenganga talks were being held two days before the expiry of the deadline for both the countries to respond to the World Bank's nomination of three international water experts made on April 26. The two countries could either agree for the three, chose one or can call for fresh nominations. Pakistani officials were keen to know India's response to the World Bank nomination of neutral experts as the issue was discussed threadbare during the last month's talks between President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. Initially, Musharraf had indicated of Pakistan's willingness to restart the bilateral talks on Baglihar but later Pakistani officials maintained that they would rather prefer the World Bank to settle the issue. Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz too subsequently said that Pakistan would abide by the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty while India maintained that the Baglihar project was well within the parameters prescribed by the treaty. Regarding Kishenganga, Pakistan said its main objection to the project was the 21-km-long underground canal envisaged by India which, Islamabad claims, was violation of the treaty.