India-Pakistan water dialogue 2021 | By Haya Fatima Sehgal 


India-Pakistan water dialogue 2021

March 23, also known as Pakistan Resolution Day, this year saw a significant dialogue taking place between Pakistan and India.

The Pakistani delegation led by the Indus Waters Commissioner Syed Meher Ali Shah was welcomed by the Indian Water Commissioner PK Saxena, both supported by their teams.

Taking place after a couple of years the talks had been suspended due to the abrogation of Article 370 by India and then the global pandemic.

Officials from both India and Pakistan met in Delhi for the two-day annual meeting as warranted by the treaty.

All amidst concerns on water security and the extension of bilateral relations, one feels the thaw has come decidedly.

PM Modi’s letter of greetings to PM Imran Khan on Pakistan Day was a welcome step indeed yet sceptics do still remain on the basic requirements of main concerns which are not being currently addressed.

Senior analysts remain hesitant that this dialogue alone will not be the end-all of contentions between the two countries.

Or even bring any conclusive results on the direct concerns. That perhaps these were only “optics” as higher powers were now watching over both.

Others gather that these talks are only the beginning of a plan designed towards a definitive peace process. And are the setting for the extension for the ‘permanency’ of peace and future relations.

This certainly feels like part of a roadmap that has been planned for India-Pakistan relations to be solidified and diplomatically addressed from now onwards.

The news comes of future associations through Cricket and even murmurs of trade being resumed.

All of this is a pleasant turnaround on the diplomatic front. Certainly, much of this seems to have been encouraged by the Biden Administration overlooking global affairs justly.

Both countries understand the importance of such dialogues on water security and the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) for the continuity of sustainability in their respective lands and prospects of regional peace.

The historic IWT took place in 1960 and led to the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) being formed. This Commission consists of officials from India and Pakistan.

Under the provisions of the treaty, the waters of three eastern rivers namely Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, had been reserved for India whereas the western rivers, namely Indus, Chenab and Jhelum, were allocated to Pakistan.

Pakistan has reiterated concerns over the designs of the Pakal Dul dam and the Lower Kulnai Dam which were being constructed for hydro-electricity on the River Chenab by India.

News has also been reported of more than just these two dams being constructed. Pakistan says that these projects violate the treaty.

On the other hand, Indian officials claim it is their right to build these projects and contend these are fully in compliance with the treaty’s guidelines. A political conundrum which remains to be solved.

Open-ended dialogue from all fronts rather than denial of concerns will be key factors for progress for the continuity of any peace talks. Water security alone is essential to global peace, not just a regional concern.

This dialogue has come close after the thaw in relations when the LOC ceasefire agreement was reinforced by both countries in February 2021.

Even after the India-Pakistan border skirmishes in 2019, Pakistan maintained the stance of extending the olive branch by returning the captured pilot Abhinandan within 60 hours according to proper decorum.

Both sides still maintain a different story about the Pulwama incident and the hostilities which followed.

The other contentious issue between the two countries is Kashmir. It has remained an heated subject of conflict since inceptions of the two in 1947. It cannot be overlooked as it will affect any peace plans looking forward.

The fact that India and Pakistan could have a permanent stand down is beyond the imagination for any of the generations that have lived through the existence of 75 years of either country. We have always been wary about our neighbours. Both sides claim their own reasons.

However, there is hope and many underlying currents that these talks are the beginning of a substantial outcome.

Whatever they bring, may there be peace in the region as we speak of a recovering world in 2021 from the devastation caused by Covid-19.

One has to agree that all this is certainly laying the groundwork for stability in India-Pakistan future relations. We do not know what will happen after the talks, which have just concluded.

We understand the unpredictable nature of politics but there is hope in the people who share more than just history; many have family ties across borders.

It will be up to our neighbours to take the lead to assuage concerns on water security and much more.

The lack of peace across borders is exceedingly apparent to an outside world. Any outcome which will occur in the future will come with compromises on agendas.

This would not mean a relinquishing of power for either – rather the advancement for both countries.

Perhaps a good place to start is simply this, by resuming the long road to a peace process via dialogue once again.

—The writer is known for her articles on Cultural Impact.

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