WASHINGTON:
The United States on Wednesday pledged support for Pakistan’s massive $14 billion 4,500MW Diamer-Bhasha dam project as top officials and business leaders explored investment prospects, amid exponential energy needs of America’s ‘critical partner’ nation.
Both the US officials – including US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah and US Special Representative Dan Feldman – and Pakistan’s Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar and Minister for Water & Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who is also defence minister, highlighted tremendous opportunities for American and international investors in the ‘transformational’ power generation and water storage project.
The officials spoke at a joint platform that brought together senior leaders and experts and business leaders at the US Chamber of Commerce at a meeting, co-hosted by the USAID and the US-Pakistan Business Council. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani and US Ambassador in Islamabad Richard Olson participated in the daylong conference, spread over several sessions.

Pakistan needs 10,000MW of power to meet its rapidly growing domestic, industrial and agrarian requirements. The materialisation of Diamer-Bhasha dam will be a giant step in that quest.
Besides producing 4,500MW of power, the dam will help with four million acre of water for irrigation, save millions from flash flooding, boost other hydro projects and contribute vitally to extending life of Tarbela Dam by 30 years.
The Obama administration officials assured the investors of effective results, citing results from US-financed energy up-gradating projects in Pakistan.
“We know that success can take hold,” Dr Shah said in reference to completion of small projects and addition to power generation capacity of large dams.
Daniel Feldman said the US and Pakistan have a wide-ranging strategic partnership and that Washington is in for a long-term economic and investment relationship with Pakistan, particularly in the energy field. “Investment in Diamer-Bhasha dam is the smartest choice for Pakistan,” Feldman remarked, reiterating the White House and Secretary John Kerry’s commitment to back economic and energy security of Pakistan.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government is committed to encouraging foreign investment in various sectors of the economy and is crystal clear that the country needs both the Dasu and Bhasha dams. “We have demonstrated our commitment – and acquired land from own indigenous resources,” he added.
He apprised the meeting of government’s robust economic agenda, saying Islamabad has stemmed the economic downslide it inherited and now exports, GDP rate, remittances, revenue collection and industrial growth, have all registered marked growth.
“Despite demonstrations in Islamabad, the rupee has been fairly staying at stable exchange rate, while inflation has also been checked,” he added. Senator Dar said the government has paid off circular debt it had inherited from the previous administration.
Khawaja Asif said Washington’s support for the vital Diamer-Bhasha dam would cement the relationship between the two countries.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2014.