In­dia, Pak­istan May Meet for In­dus Pact Talks to Thaw Frosty Ties

Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle VIII of Treaty, Per­ma­nent In­dus Com­mis­sion must meet once a year; panel ex­changes data be­tween two coun­tries

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - Di­pan­janRoy.Chaud­hury @times­group.com

New Delhi: Hop­ing for rap­proche­ment af­ter a year of ter­ror at­tacks and ac­ri­mony, In­dia and Pak­istan may con­vene a meet­ing of Per­ma­nent In­dus Com­mis­sion dur­ing the com­ing months af­ter such talks un­der In­dus Wa­ter Treaty (IWT) was sus­pended last Septem­ber fol­low­ing ter­ror strikes on the Army camp in Uri.

A meet­ing of the Com­mis­sion of is on the cards to dis­cuss the crit­i­cal is­sue of wa­ter shar­ing, hinted per­sons fa­mil­iar with the de­vel­op­ment. Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle VIII of the In­dus Wa­ters Treaty, the Com­mis­sion must meet once a year, al­ter­nately in In­dia and Pak­istan. The last meet­ing was held in July 2016. The Per­ma­nent In­dus Com­mis­sion is a bi­lat­eral com­mis­sion con­sist­ing of of­fi­cials from In­dia and Pak­istan, cre­ated to im­ple­men­tand­man­ageth­e­goal­san­dob­jec­tives and out­lines of the In­dus Wa­ters Treaty. The com­mis­sion main­tains and ex­changes data and co-op­er­ates be­tween the two coun­tries. The 1960 In­dus Wa­ter Treaty was not ab­ro­gated even as the talks were sus­pended amid ten­sions fol­low­ing the Uri strikes. Ear­lier this month, a United Na­tion De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) re­port had blamed Pak­istan for ne­glect­ing to re­solve trans-bor­der wa­ter is­sues and de­layed pre­sent­ing the cases of dis­pute with In­dia to the Wa­ter Com­mis­sion. But the re­port also claimed that the In­dus Wa­ter Treaty has been an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of con­flict res­o­lu­tion.

Mean­while, Is­lam­abad is push­ing soft power diplomacy’ amid ma­jor changes in the Pak For­eign Of­fice that may cre­ate grounds for Indo-Pak po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment this year. A few In­dian au­thors and com­men­ta­tors have been in­vited for the La­hore Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val one of the pre­mier cul­tural events of Pak­istan be­ing held be­tween Fe­bru­ary 24 and 26. This comes close on the heels of In­dian par­tic­i­pa­tion at the Karachi Lit­er­a­ture Fes­ti­val ear­lier this month. Im­prove­ment in the po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere may even see the two PMs meet­ing on the side­lines of the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (SCO) Sum­mit in Kaza­khstan on June 7-8. Both In­dia and Pak­istan are likely to be ad­mit­ted as full mem­bers at this SCO Sum­mit.

"But rap­proche­ment will, how­ever, de­pend over how the sit­u­a­tion evolves in the next few months and pre­vail­ing at­mos­phere at that time. Delhi is main­tain­ing a cau­tious ap­proach," an of­fi­cial said. For­ward move­ment in bi­lat­eral ties can­not be ruled out af­ter state assem­bly elec­tions in March, said ex­perts.

BUILD­ING BRIDGES

How­ever, the Modi gov­ern­ment has made it clear that Pak­istan re­quires to make a fun­da­men­tal shift in its ap­proach in spon­sor­ing ter­ror for ties to achieve con­crete re­sults.

This week’s ter­ror at­tacks in the Kash­mir Val­ley saw tough­en­ing of stand by the In­dian Army. Speak­ing at the sec­ond edi­tion of the Gate­way of In­dia Di­a­logue in Mum­bai last Tues­day, for­eign sec­re­tary S Jais­hankar ex­pressed In­dia's frus­tra­tion in deal­ing with Pak­istan.

"We can live with a sit­u­a­tion of lit­tle trade but we can­not live with a sit­u­a­tion when the ter­ror tap is turned on and off...the whole is­sue boils down to if Pak­istan is will­ing to make a fun­da­men­tal break with its past decades. But to­day this is not just In­dia’s prob­lem. In neigh­bour­hood and else­where, lot of ter­ror in­ci­dents in the world are traced back to Pak­istan," Jais­hankar's said.

SIGNS OF PEACE

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