China-Pakistan water pincer against India

In a new challenge to India, which claims Gilgit-Baltistan as its own territory , China will fund and build two Indus mega-dams at a total cost of $27 billion, according to a MoU signed in Beijing during PM Nawaz Sharif 's visit. The MoU came the same day India announced its boycott of China's OBOR summit, saying no country “can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity“.

Such is the mammoth size of the planned 7,100MW Bunji Dam and the 4,500MW Bhasha Dam that India does not have a single dam measuring even onethird of Bunji in power generating capacity. In fact, the total installed hydropower capacity in India's part of J&K does not equal even the smaller of the two planned dams in Gilgit. Still, Pakistan disingenuously rails against India's modest hydropower projects in J&K and has sought fresh international arbitral tribunal proceedings against India over two projects, including the tiny 330MW Kishenganga.

The Bunji and Bhasha dams, which will largely benefit the dominant Punjab province, located downstream, are set to enlarge China's strategic footprint in the restive, Shia-majority Gilgit-Baltistan.For years, China has stationed several thousand of its own troops in GilgitBaltistan, ostensibly to protect its strategic projects there, including upgrading the Karakoram Highway and building a new railway and secret tunnels. CPEC has spurred increased concern that Gilgit-Baltistan, like Tibet, could get overwhelmed by the Chinese behemoth.

The 57-year-old IWT has survived mainly because of India's goodwill and full adherence, even as Pakistan violates the Shimla peace treaty and canons of civilised conduct. China's construction of dams in a disputed region is set to make Pakistan's water relationship with India murkier. The Chinese role will not only cast a pall on the IWT's future but it could also deal a mortal blow to the treaty.