October 4, 2008

India Invites Pakistan Team to Inspect Dam in Kashmir – Paper

Text of report by Dilshad Azeem headlined "India offers Pakistan Baglihar dam inspection" published by Pakistani newspaper The News website on 4 October

Islamabad: India has allowed Pakistan to carry out an on-the- spot physical inspection of the Baglihar dam where New Delhi had stopped almost 250,000 cusecs of water from the river Chenab recently, violating the Indus Basin Treaty, The News has learnt.

The inspection may be done within two weeks; India had proposed the middle of this month, sources said. Pakistan had set two main conditions: firstly, a fresh inspection of the Baglihar project and secondly, convening an emergency meeting of the bilateral Permanent Commission on Indus Waters (PCIW). In Pakistan's view, India had directly caused colossal losses to standing crops while storing water in violation of the treaty.

To a query, these officials said the Indian side has conveyed to the Foreign Office and Pakistan's PCIW commissioner that mid- October this year was the most appropriate time for the arrival of Islamabad's team at the Baglihar site.

"We have received an official communication for the first time since the latest violation on the River Chenab, under which they (India) agreed to welcome a Pakistani team for an inspection of the project," well-placed official sources disclosed to this correspondent here on Friday.

Pakistan, in its immediate response, had accepted the inspection of the project to determine whether flows in the Chenab have dropped according to the Indian contention mentioned in the official communication, the first one since the Aug-Sep 2008 controversy had started.

"Pakistan, being a low riparian and badly affected party, urged the Indian side to also arrange a meeting between the authorities from both sides to discuss the losses Islamabad had faced due to the untimely stoppage of water," sources maintained. "We stand for compensation," they added.

The sources said that New Delhi is so far reluctant for a meeting of the PCIW but has cleared an inspection of the project by water experts. Pakistan has calculated losses in terms of the water shortage it suffered but there is no official figure as far as the financial losses are concerned.

To verify the information, Pakistan's Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, when contacted, confirmed receiving a copy from the Indian side for an inspection of the project.

"Definitely, we will go for inspection and there is no question to reject the offer but I have insisted also to have a meeting of the commission along with this proposed visit." The commissioner maintained that he asked his Indian counterpart to make arrangements for an urgent session of the commission to discuss technicalities over the core issue of stopping water against what the schedule was given to Pakistan.

"We can form a team comprising water experts as well as from other departments such as the foreign office and the law ministry provided we are given an assurance about the commission level meeting to discuss the issue threadbare," he said.

"I am hopeful that India will also agree for the commission session as I discussed it with my counterpart just today (Friday). I also proposed to the Indian commission for an inspection and the meeting simultaneously," Shah further said.

"Yes, they have given the middle of October as a tentative date for an inspection," Shah further confirmed. According to water experts, the main impact of the Baglihar project would be in the month of February every year when Pakistan direly needs water as the glacier water reduces substantially due to drop in temperature.

President Asif Zardari had taken up the water issue with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, conveying Pakistan's reservations over the stoppage of water at the Baglihar project.

However, both had agreed to resolve the issue under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 by convening a meeting of the commission. The Baglihar dam project was constructed by India on the Chenab in held Kashmir, and has been controversial since the very first day. Its critics have always maintained that India needs a prior certification from Pakistan to go for such projects on this river under the waters accord between the two countries.

Originally published by The News website, Islamabad, in English 04 Oct 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring South Asia. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.