The Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) discussed controversial Indian hydropower projects at a meeting in New Delhi 23-24 March following a two-and-a-half-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and heightening tensions surrounding the Kashmir region.
According to a statement issued by the Indian government that described the meeting as “cordial”, India maintained its position that the projects currently under construction on the Chenab River (pictured) are “fully compliant with the provisions of the treaty” and that Pakistan requested that India share information on the design of other planned projects.
Those “other planned projects” are understood to have been cleared by Indian authorities following its withdrawal in August 2019 of the special status afforded to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.
The Times of India names the projects as Durbuk Shyok (19 MW), Shankoo (18.5 MW), Nimu Chilling (24 MW), Rongdo (12 MW) and Ratan Nag (10.5 MW), all of which are in Leh district. Further projects in Kargil district are Mangdum Sangra (19 MW), Kargil Hunderman (25 MW) and Tamasha (12 MW).
Tensions had been escalating since the move, with arguments surrounding flood concerns associated with the release of water from an upstream dam, and public statements by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi promising to divert waters currently flowing into Pakistan to Indian consumers. The latter, if actioned, had been described by Pakistan’s Foreign Office as constituting “an act of aggression”.
Diplomatic ties between the two nations had been cut following the revocation of Article 370.
However, the meeting of the PIC, which is obliged under the terms of the 1960 treaty to convene at least once a year, is part of a series of steps taken in an apparent effort to smooth relations, with India’s PM Modi and Pakistan PM Imran Khan both making conciliatory statements in recent days.
The PIC commissioners “reaffirmed their commitment to interact more frequently in an attempt to resolve the issues by bilateral discussions under the treaty,” said the Indian government statement, adding that the next meeting of the PIC will be held in Pakistan.