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Baglihar project: Pak threatens to approach WB
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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January 07, 2005 18:23 IST
Last Updated: January 07, 2005 19:53 IST

Pakistan on Friday threatened to approach the World Bank for appointment of a neutral expert to resolve the Baglihar hydro-electric project tangle, saying the "final attempt" to resolve the matter had failed with India unable to address Islamabad's [Images] concerns.

Addressing a press conference after three days of talks with his Indian counterpart V K Duggal, Pakistan's Secretary for Water and Power Ashfaq Mehmood claimed Islamabad had done "everything" and shown "flexibility" to resolve the issue bilaterally.

Claiming that the project located in Jammu and Kashmir [Images] does not conform to the Indus Water Treaty, he said Pakistan has waited for five years to resolve the dispute. "It [the talks] was the final attempt but the situation is the same. Matters could not be resolved and our issues were not addressed," he added.

"We have done everything to resolve it [the Baglihar tangle] bilaterally but it has not resulted in success. So the next step is obvious as provided by the Indus Water Treaty....go for appointment of neutral experts," he said.

On his part, Duggal, secretary, water resources, said that the talks could have ended on a positive note if the Pakistan delegation had accepted the Indian offer to take a week's break and come back to hold detailed technical discussions.

"I do not know what my counterpart has told the media, but I can tell you that we had offered them to give us two more weeks to hold detailed discussions between the engineers and designers in the two delegations. We cut down our offer to one week and told them to take a break and come back next week to sort out ticklish issues, but they declined to accept our offer," Duggal told media persons at a press conference.

He declined to specify the six areas of disagreement.

Asked what would be the Indian position if Pakistan chose to go ahead with the threat of arbitration by a neutral expert, Duggal said the Indian government would put forward its point of view only after Pakistan made such a move.

"They said that they could hold the technical discussions if we halted the work on the project. We declined to halt the work. As far as the work is concerned, we are progressing and 33 per cent of the work has been completed. The 450 MW power project is well within the parameters of the Indus Water treaty signed by the two countries," he said, rebutting the Pakistani allegation that design of the Baglihar power project was not in the spirit of the treaty and hence necessary changes should be carried out in it.

"We are willing to give some concessions without compromising the basic project," he said.

"I am submitting my report to the government and my counterpart will do the same. It is for the governments to take a decision on whether they want to give another chance to bilateral negotiations or go in for a neutral arbiter," he said.

Baglihar power project was conceived in late 1980s. The two governments started corresponding with each other in 1992.

The Indian government decided to go ahead with the project in 2000 at an estimated cost of Rs 5000 crore. Of this Rs 1600 crore has already been spent and rest has to be raised through financial institutions like the Indian Banking Association.

The first phase of the 150 megawatts of the project, which was to be completed by December 2005, is unlikely to complete before the deadline.

(With PTI inputs)

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