NEW DELHI (TIP): Disregarding New Delhi’s sensitivity, United States Secretary of State John Kerry has bragged about Washington’s support to Islamabad in mobilising funds to construct a hydroelectric and irrigation project in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Kerry told journalists in Islamabad that Washington in October 2014 introduced the Diamer-Bhasha dam project to US investors to encourage them to invest in construction of the hydroelectric plant-cum-irrigation facility.
He made the remark while addressing a news-conference jointly with Sartaj Aziz, National Security and Foreign Affairs adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister M Nawaz Sharif last week.
New Delhi is understood to be upset over Kerry’s remarks. India has since long been objecting to the controversial Diamer-Bhasha dam project since it is proposed to come up at Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The US support to Pakistan on the Diamer-Bhasha project has emerged as a new irritant in New Delhi’s ties with Washington ahead of American President Barack Obama’s visit to India.
The joint statement issued after Kerry and Aziz chaired the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue on Tuesday also expressed “satisfaction” of both as the US Agency for International Development and the US Chamber of Commerce on October 8 last convened the Diamer-Bhasha Dam Project Business Opportunities conference.
Kerry met Aziz in Islamabad and made the remark just two days after calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Gandhinagar on the sideline of the “Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit”. The US also “reaffirmed” its support for exploring “the potential of the Diamer-Bhasha project to meet critical energy and water needs of Pakistan”.
Pakistan, according to the joint statement, looked forward to the “completion of the feasibility study of Diamer-Bhasha project being conducted by the USAID (a wing of the American government assigned to administer its civilian aid overseas)”.
Sources in New Delhi told Deccan Herald that the government had in October 2014, taken note of the US bid to help Pakistan seek fund for the project.
New Delhi had also used diplomatic channels to convey its objection to Washington.
“The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. The PoK is under illegal occupation. Hence, any infrastructure project in the region by the Pakistani government, too, would have no legal basis at all,” a source familiar with New Delhi’s stand on the issue said. “Our position on the issue is well-known to the US and it will be reiterated again,” he added.