Perfect Timing? China Helps Pakistan Build Hydropower Megaprojects

Pakistan has embarked on constructing series of dams –a move akin to “Lego city” style building block thought process. Its only real ally China is helping and the timing seems to be perfect, says an analyst.

Behind this is a small bedroom idea –time and space wise, and upscaled by the all-weather friends who call one another iron brothers also, adds the analyst.

These dam news emanating from the third pole is awesome, according to some Pakistani observers, including a recent piece in the OilPrice.

Beijing has also signed within the past month two agreements with Islamabad under the CPEC to directly invest up to $4 billion to develop two hydroelectric power projects in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, with a total capacity of about 1,800 megawatts.

The United States has been critical of the CPEC projects on grounds they are not “transparent”, this could lead its one time ally into a “debt trap”, it says. Pakistan and China vehemently reject the allegation.

Michael Kugelman, deputy director at the Asia program of the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center, thinks it’s “…a defiant response by both Beijing and Islamabad to increasing Indian verbal threats in recent months to make some sort of move on Pakistan-administered Kashmir”.

The Diamer Bhasha multipurpose dam will cost around $8 billion. A consortium of state-owned China Power and the Pakistan army’s commercial wing, Frontier Works Organization (FWO), is building the project on a 70-to-30 ratio. It is expected to generate 4,500 megawatts of inexpensive and clean electricity.

He sees growing Chinese investments in Pakistan-administered Kashmir as a blow to India.

“The bottom line is (according to some experts) few international companies and banks are willing to take similar risks as the Chinese do” — and this edge is going in Pakistan’s favor much to the chagrin of some. India, it’s eastern neighbor, is miffed the most. The Hindutva-incensed pundits in world’s largest democracy, have territorial disputes with both the “iron brothers”, who are its neighbors.

The $60 billion Pakistan China Economic Corridor (CPEC) project is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China’s resource-rich Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. Pakistan has also raised special forces to protect infrastructure projects. Once completed and fully operational, it will be a humongous trade and connectivity autobahn in the region.

“And it’s also a bypass relief system”, says an expert –one-fourth in length and time than the traditional sea route for China’s energy supply from the Middle East.

PM Khan’s government says it would complete the CPEC project “at any cost” for it being “the future of Pakistan.”

Khan’s battle cry echoes former Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif’s and dovetails present army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s “enduring stability” doctrine.

The nation is overwhelmingly behind all this, say independent observers.

So, despite melting glaciers and unhinged geopolitical rivalry going around the wider South Asian region, this tongue-and-groove hydro exercise between “iron brothers” is more than a dollars-and-cents thing.

“It belongs to sense-and-sensibility school of thought and is well-timed”, an observer tells DesPardes, highlighting water crisis and climate change issues (melting glaciers) as existential threat for the region (more than 1.6bln people live in the region) in nature.

The two iron brothers’ initiative may lead to affirmative steps by others in the region, –they could benefit also if coopting is considered beyond taking treetop view of things.

“China, India and Pakistan will have to come together, but the current and emerging situation makes chances of such a cooperation remote”, said a senior military official to DesPardes earlier. He was speaking on condition of anonymity as he’s not authorized to comment officially.

“The window remains open though”, says an analyst.

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