By Aamir Latif
India and Pakistan began water talks in the capital Islamabad Monday to discuss New Delhi’s three controversial projects over Chenab River in efforts to deescalate tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
Indian Indus Water Commissioner P.P. Saxena and his Pakistani counterpart Mirza Asif Beg opened the formal talks before leaving for northeastern Lahore city, where the talks will conclude on Tuesday.
Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif told a news conference, minutes before the talks began, the two-day negotiations would focus on three controversial projects over Chenab.
Asif also said the controversial Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects over which Pakistan was seeking International Court of Arbitration through the World Bank would not be part of the talks. Negotiations over these two projects would be held next month in the United States, he added.
New Delhi had suspended negotiations over the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, which grants control of the eastern Sutlej, Beas and Ravi rivers to India while the western Indus, Jhelum and Chenab rivers to Pakistan following an attack by militants that killed 19 Indian soldiers in September 2016.
Pakistan has repeatedly accused India of violating World Bank-brokered treaty by building dams on its western rivers, which all flow through Indian territory before reaching Pakistani region.
On the other hand, India complains Pakistan benefits hugely from a greater volume of water under the agreement.
Following the September 2016 attack, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi threatened to scrap the treaty; Pakistan warned that any such move would amount to a declaration of war.