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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/18/20

Kashmir could be next big flashpoint between India and China: US Expert

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Tensions between India and China have not even cooled down and experts have already warned that Kashmir could emerge as the next big flashpoint between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. And this time, India and China would be joined by the third claimant to Kashmir - Pakistan, EurAsian Times said Friday.

India has vehemently objected to the construction of multibillion-dollar Diamer Bhasha multipurpose dam in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The Diamer-Bhasha Dam is a 4,500-megawatt project with a presumed value of $15 billion and would be one of the biggest dams in the world once completed.

The Water and Power Development Authority of Pakistan recently announced that the contract of the development of the Diamer-Bhasha dam had been awarded to a joint venture between Power China and Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) on a 70-to-30 ratio.

India has denounced the project calling it a violation of its territorial sovereignty. China rejected India's concerns calling them misplaced and asserting that the economic partnership between China and Pakistan are directed at enhancing development and the welfare of people.

"These moves will bring one more tension point to an India-China relationship that is already more strained now than it has been for several decades," said Michael Kugelman, deputy director at the Asia program of the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center.

Kugelman was referring to the violent clash that broke out at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Aksai Chin, a flashpoint that saw Indo-China war in 1962. He sees the growing Chinese investments in Pakistan-administered Kashmir a big blow to India.

"We can also read them, in part, as 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," said Kugelman.

Pakistan occupied (read administered) Kashmir (PoK) is a part of India and New Delhi expects to have physical jurisdiction over it one day, Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar said in September last year. "Our position has, is and will always be very clear on PoK, that it is part of India and we expect one day we will have physical jurisdiction over it," he told reporters in New Delhi.

China has invested about $29 billion in Pakistan, including direct investment, soft loans and grants, which has been or is building power plants, roads, rails, the new deep-sea port of Gwadar and an adjoining international airport in Balochistan province.

Border and Road Initiative (BRI) launched the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) program in 2015 intending to connect Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

Alice Wells, who recently retired as the Trump administration's senior diplomat for South and Central Asia, had been publicly warning that Chinese investments under the CPEC could become a debt trap for Pakistan in the long run, citing relatively high costs and alleged lack of transparency in contracts, among other concerns.

"Hopefully, not at the cost of Pakistan's sovereignty, environment, sustainability of debt or corruption. This is a good time to renegotiate BRI terms that, in hindsight, were disadvantageous or one-sided," Wells tweeted earlier this month.

She was responding to comments by Prime Minister Imran Khan that his government would complete the estimated $40 billion to $60 billion CPEC project "at any cost" for it being "the future of Pakistan."

Islamabad and Beijing have vehemently rejected as misplaced concerns about the CPEC being a "debt trap" or a burden on Pakistan's economy.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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