- -Asif pledges Pakistan to defend its rights with full zeal, vigour
Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Monday welcomed re-initiation of talks with India on water issues after hiatus of two years, pledging to defend its rights with full zeal and vigour.
“We will defend our rights with full zeal and vigour,” he said while addressing a press conference here. On Monday, Pakistan and India initiated commission-level talks on bilateral water issues in Islamabad.
“I am happy to announce that the process of bilateral talks has been set in on the Indus Waters Treaty following efforts by Pakistan,” he said. The bilateral talks were halted in March 2015 at the time when both the countries were on table to take up issues like Kishan Ganga and Ratal power projects by India.
The secretary-level talks on Ratal power project would be held next month on April 11-13 in the United States under the aegis of the World Bank. Pakistan opted for arbitration following the failure of the secretary-level talks on both the issues held in India in last July. Asif said that Pakistan had been urging for implementation of the decision on the issue of construction of the Kishan Ganga dam on the Jehlum river.
“Ratal power project is in the initial stages and Pakistan had already expressed reservations on its design,” he said. Pakistan had already taken up both the issues at the World Bank level, he said. During the process, he said Pakistan had always been struggling to keep the talks process continue in the light of the Indus Basin Waters Treaty, but the other side was not inclined to keep the ball rolling for the peaceful settlement of the issues.
“It is a happy augury that of late India has come back to the dialogue table at the Commission level to re-launch the process of peaceful talks. We welcome this decision of India, which has dispatched the commission to Pakistan for holding two-day parleys.” He said that Pakistan had always been pleading that the Indus Basin Waters Treaty was one of the few world level treaties that provided forum to get resolution of water issues in a peaceful manner.
“Implementation and safeguard of this treaty is in the best bilateral interest,” he observed. The Indian Commission is being headed by PK Saxena while Mirza Asif Beg is representing Pakistan. The federal minister said that the commission would take up three proposed power projects, including Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai and Maiyar. In addition to this, in advance provision of data of flood, visits to under-construction projects and dates for the next meeting would also be discussed in the two-day deliberations, he said.
Responding to a question, he said that the Neelum-Jhelum power project would be completed in March, 2018. To another question, he said that the lower canal and Ratle projects were at initial stages while no progress had been made on the Wullar Barrage so far. He told a questioner that no speculations could be made about the outcome of the talks.