Opposing the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday warned that "Punjab will burn" if the state is asked to share water with Haryana.
At a meeting with his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar and Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Singh called SYL an emotive issue that could disturb national security.
The meeting was held on the directions of the Supreme Court that asked the two chief ministers last month to discuss the completion of the SYL canal, which has been in the pipeline for several decades. Punjab is reluctant to share water with Haryana and Rajasthan, saying it has nothing to spare.
Both states stuck to their stands at the meeting convened on the directions of the Supreme Court, which asked the Centre on July 28 to mediate between them on the decades-old issue. But the two chief ministers described the interaction -- the first such meeting between them on the project -- as "cordial" and agreed to talk again.
Singh has reiterated the need for a tribunal for a time-bound assessment of river water availability.
"You have to look at the issue from the national security perspective," he told Shekhawat, according to a Punjab government statement. "If you decide to go ahead with SYL, Punjab will burn and it will become a national problem, with Haryana and Rajasthan also suffering the impact."
Shekhawat and Khattar joined the video conference from Delhi. Linking the SYL debate with national security, Singh said Punjab remained at risk from all quarters. He said Pakistan was continuing with attempts to foment trouble and was trying to revive the separatist movement through the banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) organisation. The water issue could further destabilise the state, he warned, according to the statement.
Singh described the meeting as "amicable and cordial".
Khattar hoped for an amicable solution to the dispute. "We maintained our stand that the SYL should be constructed. The Supreme Court too has said that," he said after the meeting.
Khattar told Punjab that construction of the SYL and the availability of water are two different issues and must not be confused. He also emphasised upon the immediate need for building the channel with adequate capacity to help Haryana draw its legitimate share of water.
SYL has been a contentious issue between the two states with the Punjab portion of the canal still incomplete. The construction began in 1982.
Punjab has been demanding reassessment of the Ravi-Beas river waters' volume while Haryana has been seeking completion of the SYL canal to get its share of 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) of water.
Singh claimed Punjab had a right to Yamuna water, in which it did not get a share at the time of 60:40 division of assets with Haryana during the state's division in 1966. He also expressed his willingness to sit across the table with his Haryana counterpart to discuss the "emotive" issue.
Shekhawat suggested that the SYL could be completed while discussions on water sharing continue for arriving at a final formula.
"Punjab and Haryana CMs placed their viewpoints on the issue and we have decided to have another meeting soon," he said. "At the next meeting, talks will be held from the point where we ended them today and whatever the outcome, we will apprise the Supreme Court about it."
(With inputs from PTI)