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After CPEC project trouble, Chinese experts deny damage to ties with Pak

Pakistan requested to withdraw a dam in PoK from the economic corridor project with a minister having said that the costs would be too high

world Updated: Nov 17, 2017 18:23 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
(REUTERS file photo)

China, Pakistan have deep ties, multiple channels of engagement and the status of one project will not impact bilateral relations, leading Chinese experts have said following Islamabad’s decision to withdraw the request to include a PoK dam within the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework.

Pakistan unexpectedly withdrew a request to include the strategic $14-billionDiamer-Bhasha dam in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of PoK from the CPEC earlier this week.

In fact, that Pakistan could withdraw a project from the CPEC shows that the project is hinged on mutual consultation, experts said.

The CPEC is the flagship project under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a complex connectivity project connecting China with Asia and Africa.

It immediately raised questions whether cracks were appearing in the ties between the “iron brothers’ because of the huge finances involved in the multiple projects in the CPEC.

Experts here dismissed any such talk.

“I don’t think that China’s strict conditions on the dam will affect China and Pakistan’s economic relations because China-Pakistan relations have lasted for a long time,”

ShiZhiqin, the executive dean of the One Belt, One Road Strategic Institute in Beijing told Hindustan Times, adding that the two countries cooperate in many areas.

“The development should not be a big issue. China and Pakistan have many channels (to communicate,” said Hu Shisheng , director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told Hindustan Times

Hu added that the development showed that as China has repeatedly said earlier, the CPEC is based on consultation between the countries involved.

“It is not a surprise because the guiding principle of the BRIC is mutual consultation,” Hu said.

Shi added that it showed that China is a “responsible country” despite its close ties with Pakistan.

“I think that Pakistan dropped the PoK dam project in CPEC mainly it could not raise the money from World Bank and other institutions because of objections raised by India. So, perhaps, this will impact Pakistan-India ties (and not China-Pakistan relations,” said Wang Dehua from the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies.

India has repeatedly objected to the CPEC as it runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, saying it’s a sovereignty issue.

Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) chairman Muzammil Hussain told the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee this week that the Chinese conditions for financing the dam were “not doable and against our interests”.

Briefing the parliamentary panel on the status of the much-delayed mega project, he said the Chinese conditions included taking ownership of the project, operation and maintenance costs, and providing security for the Diamer-Bhasha project by pledging another operational dam.

“These conditions were unacceptable. Therefore, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved a summary to finance the dam from the country’s own resources,” he was quoted as saying.

Of course, it’s not the end of the road for China’s involvement in the particular project and it could yet help Pakistan with the finances

“Of course it remains to be seen whether China can help Pakistan raise the money from other banking services,” said Wang.