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India to attend Lahore meet on Indus Waters Treaty

The Indus Waters Treaty 1960, which settled the sharing of the Indus waters, is internationally regarded as an example of successful conflict-resolution between two countries otherwise locked in a bad relationship.  

Signalling a major shift in its position on talks with Pakistan on the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), India has accepted an invitation to attend a meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) to be held in Lahore in March, various sources confirmed to The Hindu.

According to officials privy to the development, the move came after two months of diplomatic negotiations, with World Bank officials playing the mediator in encouraging Pakistan to extend an invitation and for India to accept it.

The news closely follows the visit of World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva to New Delhi, where she met with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, weeks after her visit in January to Islamabad, where she met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Officials acknowledged that the holding of the next annual round of the PIC, which was last held in July 2016, was a “positive” sign, given that India had announced it was “suspending” the talks after the Uri attacks in September.

According to senior government officials at the time, the decision to suspend the talks was taken when Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with key officials, including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, to “review” the IWT.

India to attend Lahore meet on Indus Waters Treaty
 

At the time, tensions with Pakistan were high, as the government considered all retaliatory measures after the Army camp attack, in which 19 soldiers were killed.

“Meetings can only take place in an atmosphere free of terror,” a senior official briefing the press about the suspension of the Indus talks had said.

Asked if the scheduling of the talks now in March despite the previous decision meant a climbdown in India’s position or whether terror attacks had in fact decreased in the past few months, the Ministry of External Affairs did not offer an official comment.

“It is a regular bilateral meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission, which implements the Indus Waters Treaty,” a senior official told The Hindu, denying that there was any “shift” in India’s position.

 

In November, another controversy erupted over the World Bank decision to constitute a Court of Arbitration to look into complaints from Pakistan over India’s construction of Kishenganga and Ratle river water projects. India said the World Bank decision was biased in Pakistan’s favour, threatening to “take steps” against it.

Eventually the matter was resolved after it was taken up at the highest levels between the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who also spoke over the telephone to Mr. Jaitley and to his Pakistan counterpart Ishaq Dar. This was followed by visits to India and Pakistan by World Bank expert Ian Solomon and then Ms. Georgieva.

Ms. Georgieva discussed the impasse over the IWT at length with Mr. Jaitley during her visit to Delhi, and even suggested putting some of the key issues on Kishenganga and Ratle hydel projects on the agenda for the Lahore meeting, sources said.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu on Wednesday, Ms. Georgieva said: “Our contribution is to help the countries better understand each other’s concerns and address them. We have seen that the Treaty has served the two countries very well and has survived difficult moments.”

(With inputs from Arun S)

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 1:20:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-to-attend-lahore-meet-on-indus-waters-treaty/article17396619.ece

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