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Indo-Pak Delegations Converge in Kishtwar for Crucial Hydro Projects Inspection Under Indus Water Treaty

Pakistani delegation's first trip to J&K in five years

JAMMU, June 24: A sizable group of teams from Pakistan and India, accompanied by impartial specialists, took off for Kishtwar district and commenced the inspection of two power projects that fall under the purview of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). According to the sources, the 40-person delegation arrived in Jammu on Sunday night and took out for Kishtwar this morning to assess a number of power projects in the Chenab valley region that are still under construction. This is the first time in over five years that a delegation from Pakistan has visited Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the 1960 Treaty’s dispute resolution process. After nine years of discussions, India and Pakistan signed the IWT, which lays out a framework for collaboration and information sharing between the two parties over the usage of waters of several cross-border rivers. The World Bank also signed the agreement. The Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydroelectric power projects were inspected by a three-person Pakistani delegation in January 2019 as part of the IWT’s final inspections before diplomatic relations between the two nations froze after Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked.  The team visited the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) offices as soon as they arrived at an Army base, according to the officials. They then proceeded to the 85 MW Ratle hydroelectric power project site in Drabshalla for dam inspection.  While in Kishtwar, they are also touring other power projects, including the 1000 MW Pakal Dul hydroelectric plant on the Marusudar River, a tributary of the Chenab River, according to the officials.
When Pakistan first objected to the design elements of the two hydroelectric power projects, it requested a resolution through a “Neutral Expert” from the World Bank in 2016.  Pakistan then withdrew this plea and instead requested arbitration to resolve the dispute. India, however, maintained that “Neutral Expert” processes be the only means of resolving the matter.  October 2022 saw the appointment of a Neutral Expert and the chair of the Court of Arbitration by the World Bank following unsuccessful discussions. “Such simultaneous consideration of the same issues is not covered under any provision of the IWT,” India stated in a notification proposing changes to the Treaty.  According to a July 2023 ruling, Pakistan’s request for arbitration raised disputes that the Court of Arbitration was “competent to consider and determine.”  Under this procedure, Pakistan submitted its first Memorial in March of this year, outlining its legal argument with supporting documentation.
In order to acquaint the court with the broad outlines of the planning and functioning of run-of-river hydroelectric projects along the Indus system of rivers, the Court visited the Neelum-Jhelum Hydro-Electric Plant in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir one week later.
Although India declined to participate in the Court of Arbitration, in August 2023 it sent a Memorandum to the Independent Expert. In September of last year, Pakistan participated in the second meeting of the parties arranged by Neutral Expert in Vienna, when topics pertaining to the planning of the site visit were discussed.  In order to organise the visit of impartial specialists and delegations from Pakistan and India, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has designated 25 “liaison officers.”