Water talks on with Pak
New Delhi, Aug. 2: India and Pakistan yesterday held a World Bank-mediated meeting in Washington to try and resolve a spat over the Indus Water Treaty, 11 months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had paused negotiations on the pact following the Uri terror attack.
The talks, attended by the water secretaries of the two countries, led to an agreement for future consultations refereed by the international lender, including a second meeting next month.
Pakistan has opposed the technical specifications of two hydroelectric power projects - the Kishanganga and Ratle - that India is building on tributaries of the Jhelum and the Chenab.
While Pakistan has the rights to unlimited use of these two rivers, India can use the river water for generation of hydroelectric power as long as this does not reduce the volume of water available for Pakistan downstream.
India has contested Pakistan's allegations and the World Bank, which had mediated the treaty initially in 1960, is trying to convince the South Asian rivals to agree to a common dispute resolution mechanism.
But the meeting in Washington also represents a shift away the hardline posture India had adopted after the Uri attack when Modi had asked his government to review the water treaty and talks with Pakistan on the pact.
"The secretary-level discussions between India and Pakistan on the technical issues on the Indus Water Treaty took place this week in a spirit of goodwill and co-operation," the World Bank said in a statement after the meeting yesterday. "The parties have agreed to continue discussions and reconvene in September in Washington DC."
After the Uri attack, Modi had told senior officials that "blood and water cannot flow together". India had decided -though it did not formally announce - that it would not participate in any bilateral Indus treaty meetings unless Pakistan stopped cross-border terrorism.
When Pakistan approached the World Bank and asked it to set up a court of arbitration late in 2016, India protested, arguing that a neutral expert instead examine the specifications of the hydroelectric projects. India argued that technical, rather than legal arguments, should determine the future of the projects.
The World Bank has since deferred a decision on appointing either a court of arbitration or a neutral expert.
But earlier this year, India had participated in bilateral talks on the water treaty in Islamabad. Today, it joined Pakistan in Washington, too.