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SAARC to take up water-sharing issu

SAARC to take up water-sharing issue

Udayan Namboodiri
The Hindustan Times (New Delhi)
July 5, 2000

THE SAARC process, which received a setback following the military coup
in Pakistan, is set to tick again with water resources secretaries of
all seven member countries converging in Kathmandu this week to hold the
first technical committee meeting in over a year.

Kathmandu was the venue fixed for the SAARC summit in November.

But it was postponed because of the military take-over in Islamabad.
After that, it was indefinitely suspended because India refused to be
part of a forum that includes Pakistan.

However, the Indian position clearly stated that technical committees of
SAARC could continue their normal functioning. For Nepal and Bangladesh,
the sharing of common rivers is a major concern and the two countries
are supposed to have insisted on this aspect of SAARC co-operation to

The past five years 'significant breakthrough in terms of equitable
river water sharing using modern technology and satellite imagery was on
the brink of suspension following the two 'big' SAARC powers' political
stand-off since Kargil.

In fact, statements emanating from Kathmandu and Dhaka expressed concern
at the two powers holding SAARC to 'ransom'. India, by maintaining it
could not understand the validity of the Pervez Musharraf regime, wanted
a postponement.

A senior Nepal government official said," Our protest to this is a thing
of the past -- since SAARC works through consensus we respect the right
of a member to seek a postponement."

India has got the Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-Sri Lanka-Thailand (BIMST)
grouping activated again.

The Economic Committee of BIMST began its meetings today in New Delhi.
Nepal, which is about to be admitted to this regional forum, has been
invited as an observer.

External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh will address the delegates at
the conference on Thursday.

As Pakistan is excluded from BIMST, India hopes to sharpen it as an
economic forum to carry on with the objectives of SAARC. The advantage
of BIMST is that it can not be 'hijacked' by Indo-Pakistani rivalry.

India is also playing a significant role in promoting the Indian Ocean
Rim Group, which has kept Pakistan out too.