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Pakistan, India in talks to resolve dam dispute

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, May 12, IRNA -- Top Pakistani and Indian experts Thursday opened a two-day talks in Islamabad aimed at resolving a long-running dispute over a planned dam in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan says the dam will obstruct the flow of water to the country and threaten irrigation and power projects.

India started building the Wullar barrage-Tulbul navigation project in 1985, but work was stopped after two years as Pakistan complained that the dam would disrupt the flow of water into the Jhelum River, which flows into Pakistan.

Pakistan argues the dam violates the 1960 Indus water-sharing treaty between the two South Asian nuclear neighbors and has blamed India for planning to store water and control how much would be allowed to flow to Pakistan. India denies the claim.

India says it wants to build the dam to make a shallow 20-kilometer stretch of the river navigable during the dry summer months and insists the treaty allows construction to ease navigation.

The Indian side is led by Water Resources Secretary Dhruv Vijai Singh while Water and Power Secretary Javed Iqbal is heading the Pakistani team. Sources say that India will seek an early resolution so that it can resume work on the project and Pakistan will call for removing its fear.

A joint press statement is expected to be released on Friday, officials said.

Eight rounds of secretary-level talks have been held since work was suspended on the project, followed by five more meetings in 1998, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 under Composite Dialogue between the two countries.

The project is one of eight issues that the two rivals have identified as irritants in their ongoing peace dialogue, that was resumed earlier this year after a two-year gap. The process was suspended after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Earlier this year, the home and interior secretaries and the commerce secretaries of the two countries held talks on ways to boost counter-terrorism and trade cooperation.

The two countries will host five more sessions of talks over the next two weeks tackling other points of conflict, including the Siachen Glacier battlefield.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani visited India at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to watch the cricket World Cup semi-final between their rival countries.

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