New York: The Obama administration is considering backing the construction of Pakistan’s hulking, $12 billion Diamer Basha dam on the Indus River which is likely to face stiff opposition from Pakistan's critics in the US Congress, who've called for aid to be cut off after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in plain sight in Abbottabad.
India has protested the construction of the Diamer Basha dam, saying it would flood large parts of land in Jammu and Kashmir. The dam is also being built on disputed territory as it is located on the Indus river in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The Pakistanis have ignored India as the dam is expected to provide 4,500 mw of power, easing Islamabad’s current shortfall, though it would take some eight years to build.
Islamabad asked the US to include the Diamer Basha project in the Kerry Lugar law funding plan. Although no final decision on the project has been made, there are indications that the Obama administration is considering what could be the largest civilian aid project the US has undertaken in decades.
"Getting involved in a long-term project like this is very compelling for us," a senior US official told the McClatchy Newspapers on Wednesday.
"This would be a huge demonstration of our commitment to Pakistan and our faith in the country's future."
Shakil Durrani, the chairman of Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority, also told McClatchy Newspapers that he was confident of American support for the project, after talks with US officials.
The US will not bankroll the entire amount needed to complete the project but American money would be “crucial in enabling other international finance sources to support the dam, especially the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The US official said some $200 million would be provided initially, with the possibility of hundreds of millions more as the project develops.
"We want to see the Diamer Basha project launched. We believe that putting down some money at the beginning will act as a catalyst, accelerate the process," the US official said.
There are indications that the ADB could release $2.3 billion for the project by 2012. The World Bank, which earlier shied away from funding the project because of opposition from India, may also change its mind when the US backs the project.
New Delhi has already complained to Islamabad about China’s role in helping Pakistan to build the Diamer Basha dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India told China it hoped the Chinese side would take a long-term view of India-China relations and cease such activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan.
A recent Indian intelligence report showed that nearly 11,000 Chinese engineers and technicians were employed in various infrastructure projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Much to India’s worry, half the engineers are believed to be military engineers from the People's Liberation Army.
The Chinese are helping Pakistan with upgrading the Karakoram Highway, the Diamer Basha dam, the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project and the Bunji Dam.
America has given war-on-terror ally Pakistan $14 billion to fight terrorists and an additional $6 billion for Pakistan's economic development - a total of $20 billion in a decade, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service. Beleaguered American taxpayers no longer support this give-away–27 percent want it reduced and 44 percent want it totally eliminated.
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Updated Date: Aug 18, 2011 16:25:43 IST