Indus commission to meet by May end: Pakistan official

May 5th, 2008 - 3:39 pm ICT by admin  

By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 5 (IANS) The annual Pakistan-India joint meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) is likely to be held by May end and inspection of the Baglihar dam, being built by India in its side of Kashmir, is expected to top the agenda. “This is a routine meeting of the commission where both the sides can bring anything for discussion,” Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, Pakistan’s commissioner for Indus waters, told IANS.

He said Pakistan had asked India to hold the meeting in the last week of May. However, there had been no confirmation from New Delhi.

“It can come any time and we would be holding the three to four day long meet in Lahore or Islamabad,” said Shah, adding that the venue will be finalised after receiving information from India.

The PIC, having commissioners from both sides, is the only body between Pakistan and India that was constituted on a permanent basis to resolve the water-related issues under the bilateral 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

When asked about the agenda of the May meeting, Shah said it would refresh statistics about the advance information to avert the possibilities of floods, expected water flow in the rivers, as well as expected weather scenarios that could help both countries avoid devastation.

Usually, in annual meetings, both the PIC commissioners are assisted by their advisers, which vary in number depending on the agenda. Under the agreement, there is no restriction on how many advisers the two sides can have.

“We have asked the Indian side of the commission to ensure the annual session before May 31 so that we can take up the already decided agenda and the issues on which we could not have discussions in the last several months,” said Shah.

He added that both the sides would also look into the need for additional meetings. The official year for PIC starts in April and one annual meeting is mandatory under the 1960 agreement.

According to Shah these meetings are being held regularly. However, there had been instances when they were delayed or advanced.

“Not only us but also the Indian side of the commission is bound to submit minutes of the annual meeting latest by June 1, 2008 about the annual session. Therefore, we expect that it will not be delayed,” he said.

Besides routine matters such as exchange of the corresponding year’s reports and the arrangements for the monsoon season, in Pakistan’s viewpoint the most important issue remains whether India is constructing the Baglihar Dam on the Chenab river in accordance with the World Bank appointed neutral expert Raymond Lafitte’s decision.

India is building the dam on its side of Kashmir and if it does not allow physical inspection of the project before it is operationalised, the country would be violating the terms over water sharing set by Lafitte in his Feb 12, 2007 report.

The PIC commissioner said the Indian side was bound to allow the Pakistani authorities an on-the-spot inspection of the Baglihar dam.

However, an official of Pakistan’s water and power ministry said Pakistan had sent repeated reminders to India for an inspection of the Baglihar dam but received a cold response. “The annual session would provide the best opportunity to seek a date for the purpose,” he said.

Sources said India is expected to start the Baglihar project’s commissioning within the next two months.

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