US ignores Indian concerns, backs Pak project in PoK

 Notwithstanding New Delhi’s objection, the United States has started mobilising support for a hydroelectric and irrigation project, which Islamabad wants to build in an area that India claims Pakistan is illegally occupying in Kashmir.

Washington moved to seek support to Islamabad’s $14 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam project even as recent spurt in ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops and retaliations by Indian security personnel soldiers renewed focus on Kashmir as a flashpoint between the two neighbours.

New Delhi has been objecting to the controversial project as it is located at Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

US administration hosted an event in Washington on October 8 to help the Pakistan government seek funding for the 4,500 MW Diamer-Bhasha project, which is proposed to be built on river Indus.

Rajiv Shah, the chief of US Agency for International Development, and Dan Feldman, American Special Representative for Afghanistan-Pakistan, attended the event. “Investment in the Diamer Bhasha Dam is the smartest choice for Pakistan,” Feldman was quoted in a report put up on the website of the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington.

“This project presents exciting opportunities for foreign and local investors to profit while bringing critically needed energy, water and foreign investment to Pakistan,” Washington’s envoy to Islamabad, Richard Olson, said in Lahore on October 2.

Sources in New Delhi told Deccan Herald that the government had taken note of the US helping Pakistan seek fund for the project and would use diplomatic channels to once again convey its objection to Washington.

‘PoK part of India’

“The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. The PoK is under illegal occupation. Hence, any infrastructure project in the region by the Pakistani government would have no legal basis at all,” said a source familiar with the Indian government’s stand on the issue. “This will be reiterated (to the US) again,” he added.

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif attended the event in Washington and wooed US and other international investors to pump in money for what they called a “transformational project” for water and power generation. The US government held the event just eight days after its President Obama hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi at White House and the two leaders agreed to “deepen and broaden the existing framework of partnership and friendship” between America and India.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank had earlier rejected Pakistani government’s proposal for financing the project. The international lending agencies had cited New Delhi’s objections and controversial status of Gilgit-Baltistan (northernmost part of the PoK) as reasons for turning down the proposal.

Islamabad, however, now hopes that Washington’s support may help it persuade World Bank and ADB reverse their earlier decisions.

The US move to help Pakistan seek fund for the Diamer Bhasha project came at a time when New Delhi is also concerned over reports on increasing Chinese role in infrastructure projects in PoK.

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