India-China military stand-off has tremendously benefitted Pakistan according to experts. Pakistan recently signed a $2.4 billion deal with China for a massive hydropower project in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir which shows how three nations (India, Pakistan and China) are striving to out-do each other in the highly-contested region.
Experts have claimed that China is prioritizing dam and hydropower construction projects in Pakistan-controlled-Kashmir over other BRI corridor projects to spite New Delhi.
Amid the flaring tensions between India and China that led to a bloody clash between the troops of two neighbouring countries on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) leaving 20 Indian troops dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties, Islamabad has been surprisingly silent on the issue, given the close ties between China and Pakistan.
The hydropower project marks the largest power sector investment by an independent power producer under China’s multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
India has opposed the CPEC project stating that carrying out of such projects in territories under Pakistan’s illegal occupation was illegal. “Our position is consistent and clear that entire territory of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been, are and will continue to be integral and inalienable part of India,” said the Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi.
“We have consistently conveyed our protests and shared concerns with both Pakistan and China on all such projects in the Indian territories under Pakistan’s illegal occupation,” it said.
Border and Road Initiative (BRI) launched the CPEC programme in 2015 intending to connect Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes. The program was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
After completion of key projects in the first phase, “the second phase will focus on the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZ), strengthening trade and cultural ties through joint ventures and exchange of delegations,” said Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan.
“Exploiting India’s vulnerabilities is an essential element of China’s “contain India” policy,” said Mohan Malik, a professor of strategic studies at the National Defense College UAE. He added that Pakistan is undoubtedly the largest beneficiary of the China-India military face-off. “The looming threat of a two-front war with China and Pakistan is New Delhi’s worst-case scenario,” he said.
According to NAR, it was revealed in an audit report by the power division of Pakistan that two Chinese companies had inflated the costs of power projects in the corridor by $3 billion. The revelation has made it easy for Pakistan to ask China to delay repayment schedules for corridor power project loans.
Malik said that Islamabad could take advantage of the crisis to renegotiate unfavourable loan terms regarding financially unviable projects.
Last week, Pakistan’s Stock Exchange in Karachi was attacked by four gunmen. The attack was orchestrated by Balochistan Liberation Army, which has been demanding for separation of the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces for decades now.
Incidentally, Chinese companies have a 40% stake in the Stock Exchange. However, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was quick to blame India for the attack. “By blaming India for [the] stock exchange attack, Pakistan has tried to gain the sympathies of China,” said James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the RSIS at Singapore. Dorsey added that Pakistan is trying to exploit Indo-China border tensions for its own financial benefit.