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Pak weakly represented at Indo-Pak water dialogue

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The Save Water Save Pakistan forum has expressed serious reservations over the Track-II dialogue between India and Pakistan – agreeing in principle to set up Indus Water Commission to avert wars between the two neighbours on water issues, and the commission’s international experts working under the UN to monitor and promote sustainable development in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh – stressing that Pakistan's interest was not properly presented.

The dialogue was an outcome of a special meeting on water issues, chaired by Dr Axel Harneit-Sievers of Germany. India was represented by former Ministry of Water Resources secretary Ramaswamy, and Pakistan by water and energy expert Arshad H Abbasi, and former foreign secretary Salman Haider.

The meeting was held as part of Track-II dialogue in New Delhi on March 28-30. It was also agreed inter alia to install telemetry system to record river flow data. Furthermore it was noted that, since catchments of the rivers in Himachal Pardesh and Indian-held Kashmir are degraded, they should be improved by watershed management measures. Both telemetry and watershed management had been favourite agendas of Arshad Abbasi and Jamaat Ali Shah, former Pakistan commissioner for Indus Waters.

Commenting on the Track-II dialogue, forum chairman and former chief technical adviser of United Nations and World Bank, Bashir A Malik, on Monday said what struck him most was blackout of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) as if the document did not exist, let alone its unbridled violation by India.

“We at Save Water Save Pakistan considered that some agreements in Track-II meetings at New Delhi were of vital importance bearing on our water problems with India. Omission of any reference in the proceedings to India’s IWT infringements was indeed shocking to say the least.”

He said India had been exploiting it as a weapon in the ‘water war’ against Pakistan, threatening its very survival. Save Water Save Pakistan is in search of a copy of the dialogue so that comprehensive assessment was carried out by the forum, he said.

Malik stressed that forum members also wanted to know about antecedents of Arshad Abbasi, the water resources and energy expert, who represented Pakistan in the Track-II proceedings, which took extremely important decisions on water issues with India, in particular its violation of IWT being detrimental to Pakistan.

Incidentally, none of the former top engineers in the forum belonging to the Irrigation Department and WAPDA knew about Abbasi’s credentials as an expert in water resources and power engineering. The forum member maintained that the research fellow at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad could not lend him professional experience since it is not an engineering organisation involving planning, design, construction or operation of hydraulic works, including large multi-purpose dams such as Mangla and Tarbela in WAPDA. Forum members have demanded detailed engineering qualifications and experience of Arshad Abbasi as water resources and power engineer.