11 January 2016

China firm to build mega dam in PoK despite India’s strong opposition

Published January 8, 2016
A Chinese state-run company on Thursday announced plans to go ahead with a mega dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the latest indicator of Beijing moving forward with major projects in the region despite India’s strong opposition.
One of China’s biggest state-run hydropower companies, the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC) which manages the 22,500 MW Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze river – the world’s largest dam – has signed an agreement to develop the Kohala hydropower project in PoK, the firm said in a statement posted on its website.
This 1,100 MW dam will come up on the Jhelum River, downstream from Muzaffarabad in PoK. The total investment in the project is estimated at $2.4 billion. Both countries had agreed on a 30-year tariff for the dam, according to Pakistani media reports.

The deal for the dam underlines China’s willingness to go forward with major projects in PoK, despite India’s consistent opposition.
Indian officials have pointed out China’s objections to joint exploration projects between India and Vietnam in the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by Beijing.
Beijing, however, has said the ‘purely commercial’ projects were without prejudice to the Kashmir issue and that it was not taking a position on territorial disputes between India and Pakistan.

The Kohala dam has been billed as a key project in the new China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) venture that envisages widening the Karakoram Highway, exploring a railway link and a number of energy and infrastructure projects in a corridor connecting Kashgar, in China’s far western Xinjiang region, through PoK, to the Gwadar port in Pakistan on the Arabian Sea that is built and managed by China.

The CPEC has been pushed by President Xi Jinping as a key pillar of his pet ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, referring to a Silk Road Economic Belt connecting China to Central Asia, Europe, and a Maritime Silk Road to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

The CPEC, emerging as a key part of the project, is a significant reason for India declining to officially support the ‘Belt and Road’, which has been backed by most of India’s neighbours.

India has rebuffed Beijing’s requests to refer to the ‘Belt and Road’ in joint statements and declined official backing in the project. Initially, India’s official stand was that as the ‘Belt and Road’ was a domestic initiative of China’s, there was no need to back it as a national initiative.

That stand has since been somewhat toned down, with most of India’s neighbours, including Sri Lanka, Nepal and Southeast Asian countries backing the plan.

New Delhi has since said that it would cooperate with China where there was ‘synergy’ between the ‘Belt and Road’ and India’s own ‘Act East’ initiative.

Delhi has since emerged as the second biggest shareholder, after Beijing, in the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), committing $ 8 billion, although the bank is expected to fund many ‘Belt and Road’ projects.

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