India assures Pakistan of addressing ‘legitimate’ water concerns


* Indian minister says New Delhi has no intention of taking away Pakistan’s water

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: India on Sunday assured Pakistan of taking care of the country’s “legitimate” concerns on water, as both countries began a four-day joint meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC). India’s Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters on the eve of deliberations that New Delhi had no intention to deprive Pakistan of its share of water.

“We never deprived them of water, not even during wars and have no intention to do so ever,” he said.

A nine-member Pakistan delegation led by Indus Commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah began talks on Sunday with the Indian Commission headed by G Aringanathan.

The annual Indus Commission talks will exchange technical data on river flow, besides devising mechanism to exchange advance flood information during the monsoon season.

Water Resources Minister Bansal claimed water woes in Pakistan were more due to its internal mismanagement and called for an end to blaming India for water theft.

Intention: “India has no intention of taking away water which may be rightfully theirs…we have demonstrated this even in the past. When relations were at nadir, when we were at war, we did not use water as a weapon to deprive them of their share,” he said.

The minister further said India “sets up a control room round-the-clock in the Indus Wing of the Ministry of Water Resources to share water flow data with their counterparts in Pakistan”. Bansal said the data was being exchanged as part of “goodwill gestures” and on humanitarian grounds.

“No costs are being charged to Pakistan for the collection and transmission of this data,” he added.

Commenting on Pakistan’s charge that India was “stealing” water, he said, “They are diverting the attention of their people from their own inefficient use of water… we have seen this in case of the Baglihar (power project).”

Suggesting that India was ready to walk the extra mile, Bansal said, “Our effort will be to sort out the matter through negotiations…be it at a higher level.”

Pakistan has of late raised concerns at the construction of two more hydel power units, the Uri-II and Chutak projects. The 240 megawatts Uri-II hydel power project is being constructed on Jhelum river in the Kashmir valley.

Meanwhile, despite Pakistan’s protests, India’s National Hydro Electric Power Corporation (NHPC) has said it was fast-tracking the 330MW Kishanganga project. It will be now completed by 2015, ahead of the January 2016 target.

“We have already spent Rs 300 crore on the project and work is going on in full swing. We are getting the tunnel boring machine from Italy and expect the project not to face any delays,” an NHPC official said.

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