Agrees to provide additional technical data to Pakistan

India has indicated to Pakistan that it is no longer willing to indefinitely discuss the Tulbul navigation/Wullar lake project in Kashmir and may seek international arbitration to resolve the two decades-old dispute.

This message was conveyed at the two-day Water Resources Secretary-level talks that concluded here on Wednesday. Water Resources Secretary Dhruv Vijay Singh led the Indian delegation, while the Pakistan team was headed by Imtiaz Kazi, Secretary, Water and Power.

The two sides are already in arbitration over the Kishenganga project in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, Pakistan sought arbitration by a neutral expert on India's Baglihar hydel project in the State.

Keen to resolve the long-pending Tulbul dispute, India has agreed to provide Pakistan additional technical data. The project, planned on the Jhelum, has been suspended since 1986 after Pakistan raised objections. The issue now forms part of the Composite Dialogue between the two countries.

On Wednesday, India said if no solution was forthcoming, would prefer to go in for arbitration. New Delhi maintains that the Tulbul navigation project, located just before the exit of the Wullar lake on the Jhelum, is within its rights under the Indus Water Treaty of 1960.

A joint statement emphasised the need for an early and amicable resolution of the issue within the ambit of the Treaty.

“In order to address the concerns of both countries, it was agreed that the Indian side will provide additional technical data to Pakistan. The Pakistani side will examine the data and furnish its views before the next round of talks.

“Both sides agreed that, if required, they will explore the way forward for resolving the issue under the provisions of the Treaty,” the statement said.

India proposes regulated release of water from the Wullar lake during the lean-season period of October-February to facilitate year-round navigation for trade and tourism. New Delhi maintains that regulating depletion of naturally stored waters for non-consumptive use of navigation is permissible under the Treaty. There is no pondage or storage involved.

Pakistan, however, raises objection, saying it is a “storage project” that will allow India to control the waters. This, Islamabad claims, is violation of the Treaty.

The last round of talks was held in May last in Islamabad. Earlier, the issue was discussed but not resolved at the Commissioner-level in the bilateral Permanent Indus Commission.

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