Karot Hydropower Project could generate wide range of benefits for China, India and Pakistan

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/20 22:38:40

China is racing to complete the Karot Hydropower Project in Azad Jammu and Kashmir ahead of schedule, Bloomberg News reported recently. China is likely to maintain its neutral stance on the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir, but this will not interfere with China's efforts to increase its economic presence in the region, in a bid to ensure more local people could benefit from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The Karot Hydropower Project located on the Jhelum River on the boundary between the Punjab region of Pakistan and the country's self-governing Azad Kashmir division. According to Bloomberg, construction on the power station is "set to finish nine months ahead of its December 2021 completion date." Hydropower construction involves a considerable range of issues such as relocation of people. The shortened construction period suggested the project has gained understanding, support and trust from local authorities and the public in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

In recent years, Pakistan has faced intermittent power outages of up to 18 hours a day. Power shortages coupled with high electricity rates hobbled  Pakistan's economy, and this is an especially serious issue when it comes to Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The Karot project's installed capacity is 720 megawatts. Additionally, hydropower is the cheapest source of electricity for Pakistan. The project can tangibly benefit the country's economy, which is why it can gain support from local people.

The hydropower plant has long been seen by some observers as a flagship project of the CPEC. Chinese investors won't abandon Azad Jammu and Kashmir just because Kashmir remains a contested area between India and Pakistan. By financing the project, China can gain experience that may help future efforts by China to invest in the region. 

Radio Pakistan reported earlier this year that three major hydropower projects, including the Karot station, have been included in the CPEC. It said that those projects "are being executed at a fast pace in Azad Kashmir to provide cost-effective electricity to people." 

Economics and politics are always tangled, and they interact with each other. In the past, it was precisely because of the India-Pakistan dispute that Azad Jammu and Kashmir 's economy remained backward. As Azad Jammu and Kashmir's economy begins to improve along with infrastructure expansion, an amicable settlement to the dispute between India and Pakistan becomes more possible.

A near-term economic recovery in Azad Jammu and Kashmir could in turn persuade India to share the benefits brought by China's Belt and Roadinitiative, although the CPEC, which is a flagship project of the initiative, does not target any third party.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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