BEIJING: Pakistan has turned down China’s offer of assistance for the $14-billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam, according to a leading Pakistan daily.
Moreover, Islamabad is learnt to have asked China to take the project out of the $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and allow it to build the dam on its own. The project is located in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is claimed by India.
The Asian Development Bank had earlier refused to finance the project because it was to come up in a disputed territory. Express Tribune cited a top official saying Pakistan would prefer to self-finance the project instead of accepting extremely tough conditions set by Chinese companies.
Sources in Pakistan said international lenders were linking serious conditions with the provision of funding, and the project cost had reached $14 billion against the original estimates of $5 billion.
Express Tribune quoted chairman of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Muzammil Hussain as saying, “Chinese conditions for financing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests.”
Hussain said this while briefing the public accounts committee (PAC) of parliament, and added that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has approved a plan to finance the dam from the country’s own resources.
The report caused huge surprise to knowledgeable sources in Beijing, some of whom were in denial and said Pakistan was unlikely to spring a nasty surprise without first consulting Chinese authorities.
A Beijing-based Chinese expert said Pakistan would not risk turning down Beijing’s offer because it would impact the CPEC as a whole.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the expert told TOI, “I think Chinese diplomats in Islamabad would have known if Pakistan was unhappy with the financing and would have alerted Beijing. But this is not the case because Pakistan’s planning minister asked for Chinese funds for several dam projects including this one only a few days back.”
In his presentation to the parliamentary committee, Hussain said China wanted Pakistan to pledge an existing dam project to obtain funds for the new one, besides pay interests and other charges.
Chinese conditions were about taking ownership of the project, operation, and maintenance costs, and security of the Diamer-Bhasha project by pledging another operational dam, the paper quoted Hussain as saying.
Taking a different view, former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar said, “I don’t get the sense of a discord here. China has left it to Pakistan to decide whether it wants to go ahead with the Diamer-Bhasha dam as a OBOR initiative, where Beijing is, conceptually speaking, increasingly conforming to international practices and injecting financial viability, efficiency and transparency in the execution of such infrastructural projects.”