In their first bilateral engagement since the installation of a new government in Islamabad on 18 August, India and Pakistan on Wednesday began their two-day water talks under the ambit of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT).
A nine-member Indian delegation led by Water Commissioner PK Saxena is in Lahore where the talks between members of the two commissions have started in a conducive atmosphere. The Pakistani side is being headed by Water Commissioner Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah.
During the talks, the two countries are expected to put forth their respective stand on the water disputes between them. A joint statement is expected to be issued on Thursday at the conclusion of the meeting.
The last meeting of the India-Pakistan Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was held in New Delhi in March during which both sides shared details of the water flow and the quantum of water being used under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.
India and Pakistan signed the treaty in 1960 after nine years of negotiations, with the World Bank being a signatory. The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of rivers. However, there were disagreements and differences between India and Pakistan over the treaty.
The two sides will also finalise the schedule of future meetings of the PIC and visits of the teams of the Indus commissioners.
The water commissioners of India and Pakistan are required to meet twice a year and arrange technical visits to project sites and critical river head works.
The meeting between the water commissioners is being seen as a positive development in the tension-ridden relationship between India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has,in recent statements, given firm indication of his commitment to normalise ties with India. However, New Delhi has made it clear that the resumption of a formal dialogue between the two countries hinges on Pakistan showing sincerity in dealing with terrorism emanating from its soil against India.