International

Chinese firm signals interest in PoK dam project

Islamabad urges Beijing to step up support to Pakistan's hydropower and civil nuclear energy projects

Officials from China's biggest State-run hydropower firm on Monday signalled interest in supporting the construction of a major $12 billion dam project in the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), even as Pakistan called on China to step up support to hydropower and civilian nuclear energy projects in the country.

Officials from Sinohydro, a State-owned hydropower firm, discussed proposals for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam in PoK with the visiting Pakistan Federal Minister for Water and Power, Syed Naveed Qamar, on Monday, according to a statement from the Pakistan Embassy in Beijing.

Mr. Qamar also invited Sinohydro's support for the construction of two other dams, the Gomal Zam and Darawat projects, in talks with the company's chairman Huang Baodong.

Mr. Qamar is in Beijing on a visit aimed at taking forward a newly-formed Pakistan-China Joint Economic Working Group (JEWG), a mechanism set up by the two countries to speed up investment in energy projects.

China's accelerated involvement in energy and infrastructure projects in PoK has raised concerns in India, with officials telling China last year that the Indian government was concerned about “a pattern of what China was doing” in the region.

China has, over the past year, stepped up its involvement in a number of projects in disputed areas, signing deals to upgrade the Karakoram Highway, build roads and take forward feasibility studies for a railway link from China's western Xinjiang through the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

China's Gezhouba hydropower group has also signed a deal to work on the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project, also in PoK.

Chinese troops in PoK

Reports last year said more than 11,000 troops of the Chinese People's Liberation Army were also stationed in the region, although Chinese officials said their presence was limited to providing humanitarian assistance in flood-affected areas, engineering corps and security assistance to infrastructure projects.

Chinese officials have said their involvement in projects in PoK was “without prejudice” to their long-standing position that the Kashmir issue was for India and Pakistan to resolve.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 8:11:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/chinese-firm-signals-interest-in-pok-dam-project/article2314247.ece

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