More Than Troops, Chinese Projects In PoK Worry India4 September 2010
The Indian Express
New Delhi: While India has independently confirmed that the presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit and Baltistan is a bit exaggerated in terms of numbers, the real concern here is on the number of projects and works China has undertaken in those areas and in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK). And the footprint is only growing larger. At last count, South Block had noticed at least 17 confirmed projects in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. These constitute more than half the Chinese projects in areas under Pakistanís control, making it a cause of major concern because of the disputed status of the areas. At present, according to government inputs, 122 Chinese companies are active in Pakistan, and most of them are also involved in projects in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan areas. China, sources said, has suddenly increased its involvement in almost every key sector, and has virtually taken upon itself the responsibility of building basic infrastructure in these areas. The list of projects range from providing mobile connectivity services to building power projects, highways and rail links. Karakoram Highway upgradation: The China Road and Bridge Corporation has taken up this project and will give preferential credit of $327 million through its Exim Bank in what is a $491-million project. Two other MoUs on double-laning of the Karakoram Highway as well as widening of the Jaglot-Skardu road have also been signed. Pakistan-China rail link: This is a 750 km-long rail link between Havelian and the Khunjerab Pass along the Karakoram Highway. While feasibility studies are on for this project, Pakistan and China have agreed to establish a joint venture between Pakistan Railways and Dongfang Electric Corporation to initially run only freight trains on this route. Jhelum Bridge: Pakistan has awarded a Rs 1.2 billion contract to a Chinese state company for constructing a major bridge on River Jhelum at Dhangali in Mirpur District. Five bailey bridges on Gilgit-Skardu Road: Xinjiang Road and Bridge Construction Company of China is replacing five existing bailey bridges on the 167-km long, strategically important Gilgit-Skardu road. Mining: A Chinese company called MCC Resources Development Company Ltd has been allowed to start a mineral exploration exercise in these areas. The Gilgit-Baltistan government has given a reconnaissance licence to the company. Pakistan Surpass Mining Company, which is subsidiary of Chinaís Xinjiang Surpass Mining Company Ltd, has submitted a $6 million investment proposal for mining in those areas. It plans to set up a hydropower station and Molybdenum processing plant in Chupurshan Valley. Sust Dry Port: A joint venture named Pak-China Sust Port Company is managing the Sust dry port, 200 km from Gilgit on the Karakoram Highway. Opened four years ago, the Chinese side is the principal stakeholder in the JV. Mobile communication links: China Mobile is providing mobile services in PoK and certain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. The company has major plans to set up more towers and expand coverage. Diamer-Bhasha Dam: China is said to have agreed to finance this $11.3-billion 4500-MW project. Also, it has agreed to provide the services of the China Three Gorges Project Corporation for the construction of the dam. Sinihydro has show interest in the development of the project. Magla dam raising project: A joint venture comprising China International Water and Electric Corporation and some Pakistan companies have almost completed this project. Once operational, the average annual water availability for irrigation will increase by near 3 million acre feet. Neelum-Jhelum hydro-power project: China Gezhouba Water and Power Corporation, which was part of the Three Gorges project, has formed a consortium and taken up this 969 MW project too in Muzaffarabad district. Keen on completing this project before the Kishengaga project on the Indian side, Pakistan has obtained a commitment from the consortium that the work will be finished in eight years. Meanwhile, it has raised objections and gone for arbitration with India on the Kishenganga project under Indus Waters Treaty provisions. Besides these, China has taken up at least four other hydropower projects in these areas-Bhunji project in Gilgit-Baltistan, Kohala project (1100 MW), Naltar project and then smaller projects in places like Phendar, Harpo and Yurlbo. Already, China has provided a soft loan of $300 million to Pakistan for reconstruction and rehabilitation works in the areas as follow-up on relief for the earthquake. Following the recent floods, it has taken up the task to get the Karakoram Highway back on track. Many of its military personnel are there for relief work and it has so far given aid of $9 million which is likely to increase.