May 2005 News

India Hints At Change In Kishenganga's Design

8 May 2005
The Daily Excelsior

Lahore: India said today it would change the design of the Kishenganga project it is building in Kashmir if it is unable to address Pakistan's objections to it under a decades-old water sharing treaty. India's assurance came on the first day of talks in the Pakistani city of Lahore on the 330-megawatt hydro-power project, which Pakistan says violates the 1960 Indus Water Treaty. 'It is our responsibility to remove the objections Pakistan has on the Kishenganga project,' India's Water Commissioner D K Mehta told reporters. 'If we are unable to remove the objections of Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty, we will have to change the design of Kishenganga,' he said. Under the Indus Water Treaty, India has rights to the waters of the Ravi, Sutlej and Beas rivers while Pakistan has rights to the waters of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. All the rivers flow from India to Pakistan. The Kishenganga Project involves the diversion of water from one tributary of the Jhelum river to another, which according to India is permissable under the treaty. Pakistan says it is not. Pakistan also has reservations about the design of the dam, said Pakistan's Indus Water Commissioner, Jamaat Ali Shah. Pakistan's plan for its own power station on the Jhelum would be affected if India built the Kishenganga, he added. Pakistan also has asked the World Bank to intervene to resolve a row over India's plans to build a 1 billion hydro-power project, known as the Baglihar dam, on the Chenab river. The two countries also plan to hold talks later this month on how to resolve their conflict on Siachen glacier in the Himalayas where Pakistani and Indian forces have been facing off for about 20 years. Defence officials of the two countries will meet in Islamabad on May 25 for two days to discuss the row on the icy wastes of the Siachin Glacier, 5,500 metres above sea level in the north of the Kashmir region. The two sides have discussed the dispute many times but India has been reluctant to withdraw, fearing Pakistani troops would move up and occupy the glacier. Meanwhile, the India-Pakistan dialogue to speed up the normalisation process as well as talks to resolve a host of contentious issues would gather pace from this week with officials of the two countries braced up to hold a flurry of meetings on a variety of issues. A high-level Indian transport delegation is due in Pakistan tomorrow to begin talks on May 10 to run a new bus service between Amritsar and Lahore through the Wagah land border. The two countries have already committed to run the bus service covering 56 kms between the two bustling cities on both sides of the border as it figured prominently in the joint statement issued after last month's visit to India by President Pervez Musharraf to hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The joint statement also spoke of running bus services between Wagah and Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak, specially during the festival season. If it materialises, the Amritsar-Lahore bus service would be the third currently operating between the two countries. It will be in addition to Delhi-Lahore bus as well as Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus service, besides Lahore-Attari train service. On the same day an Indian coast guard delegation headed by Director General Vice Admiral Arun Kumar Singh would hold talks with their Pakistan counterpart in Islamabad to discuss an MoU with the Pakistan's Maritime Security Agency (PMSA). The parleys would focus on establishment of communication links between the two organisations and to liberalise procedures for the release of fishermen from each others' countries caught for straying into their respective waters. Singh would discuss a host of issues with PMSA officials, including establishment of communication links, repatriation of Indian and Pakistani fishermen, educating them about maritime boundaries and coordination for search and rescue at sea, an official statement said. Hundreds of fishermen of both countries get caught every year by the ICG and PMSA off Gujarat and Karachi coasts. The two sides will discuss exchange of information on other important maritime aspects such as search and rescue at sea, natural disasters, calamities, pollution incidents, smuggling and illicit drug trafficking. The two nations were also expected to give concrete shape to their plans to open branches of their national banks in each others' countries this week during the visit of Reserve Bank Governor Y V Reddy. He is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on May 15 and visit Lahore and Karachi to hold talks with top officials of Pakistan's State Bank on a variety of issues. Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has already expressed Islamabad's interest in opening up branches of the national banks in both countries to begin the process of normalisation on the commercial front. Reddy's visit would be followed by Defence Secretary-Level talks on Siachen and Sir Creek scheduled to be held here from May 25 to 28.


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