India and Pakistan will hold the annual meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission in the national capital starting today. The two-day annual meeting on the sharing of river water between the two countries - governed by the 1960 Indus Water Treaty - is taking place after a gap of over two years. This comes a month after India and Pakistan released a rare joint-statement on maintaining peace along the Line of Control - the de-facto border - and other sectors.
Per the treaty, officials of the two countries meet at least once annually. The last such meeting had taken place in August 2018. In 2019, the meeting had been cancelled over the Pulwama terror attack in which over 40 Indian soldiers had died in the line of duty. Last year, it could not take place as India wanted a virtual meeting because of the coronavirus pandemic, while Pakistan insisted on a physical meeting at the Attari-Wagah border.
The meeting is being seen as a significant step towards thawing bilateral relations between the neighbours, which have been effectively snapped following the Pulwama terror attack and a resultant aerial dogfight after decades.
This is the first meeting of the Indus Commission after the Central government revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status in 2019. It had also bifurcated the former state into two Union territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Pakistan had objected to the move. New Delhi had called the decisions India's internal matter.
India's planned hydropower projects in Ladakh are among the several outstanding issues expected to be discussed at the meeting. Pakistan has raised objections against the projects.
India's delegation will be led by PK Saxena, who will be joined by his advisors from the Central Water Commission, the Central Electricity Authority and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.
The Pakistan delegation will be led by Indus Commissioner Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah.
Ahead of the meeting, Mr Saxena said, "India is committed towards full utilisation of its rights under the Treaty and believes in amicable solution of issues through discussion."
In February this year, the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries spoke to each other over phone and reviewed the situation along the LoC and other sectors.
"Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight of February 24/25," the joint statement said.
With inputs from PTI