he Bangladesh Ambassador to Bhutan Jishnu Roy Choudhury has expressed his country’s full support for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bhutan, India and Bangladesh that would allow Bangladesh to invest in Bhutan’s hydropower sector.
The MoU was drafted by Bhutan and sent two months ago to both Dhaka and New Delhi. Dhaka said yes a month ago while a response is still awaited from New Delhi.
“I hope the proposal will take shape as the three countries are very good friends,” stressed the ambassador.
“There is good friendship between the political leaders of the three countries and also political willingness for such a project,” said the ambassador.
He said that it is also the philosophy of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enhance ties and cooperation at the sub regional level.
The Ambassador conveyed that there was strong support in Bangladesh for investing in Bhutan’s hydropower sector right from the top levels of the Bangladeshi political establishment.
The proposal was made possible due to a sub-regional group under SAARC created in 2014 between Bhutan, India and Bangladesh on the issues of water and energy.
He said that the initial proposal came from such a sub-regional grouping to enhance better power connectivity.
Power trade between the three countries would not be an entirely new concept as Bhutan already sells power to India which sells power to Bangladesh. The only difference is that with this MoU Bhutan would be able to sell power directly to Bangladesh.
Jishnu Roy Choudhury said that in addition to the existing power they are buying from India they would be soon purchasing additional power from the Indian state of Tripura.
The consent from India to the MoU is vital to the MoU as any power line to Bangladesh from Bhutan would have to go through Indian Territory.
According to the ambassador, Bangladesh was open to any kind of hydro investment model including the current ones with India. However, he said that the details of the type of model and even the amount of money to be invested would be decided by a three country technical group that would be formed once the MoU is signed.
Bhutan is prepared to offer the 1,024 MW Dorjilung project on the Kurichu River as its DPR is in the final stages and it is outside the 10,000 MW agreement with India.
It has been learnt that the Minister for Economic Affairs Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk even took the former Indian ambassador and the current Bangladesh ambassador to see the Dorjilung site.
The Bangladesh ambassador stressed that his country needs the power as it is a primary ingredient of development and would help with everything from industries to ICT connectivity in his country.
He stressed that this was a trilateral project between the three countries and so the stakeholders could take decisions jointly.
The ambassador was hopeful for the project given not only the good relations between Bangladesh and Bhutan but also Bangladesh and India.
“India recently agreed to give USD 2 bn in soft loans to help Bangladesh and senior Indian leaders like the Foreign Minister also recently visited Bangladesh and expressed positive feelings about ties between the two countries,” said the ambassador.
He also alluded to the historical nature of friendship with both Bhutan and India helping in their own ways when Bangladesh became an independent nation. The ambassador also said that India is one of Bangladesh’s largest developmental partners.
The Bangladeshi interest to invest in Bhutan’s hydropower sector is not a new one. It has been there from 2009-10 onwards where Bangladesh expressed open interest to invest in Bhutan.
“We are always asking for power from Bhutan and we hope we can move forward collectively,” said the ambassador.
In response to a question the ambassador also talked about transit issues between India and Bangladesh. This is important as the hydropower lines from Bhutan to Bangladesh would be a transit issue too.
“As far as good connectivity is concerned with the seven sisters of the North East, Bangladesh will extend all possible support. In fact at different times Tripura bought food grains from Bangladesh and we allowed it,” said the ambassador.
“Transit and trans-shipment are defined by their own terminologies and we all want better connectivity giving proper benefit to each of the countries while keeping the sovereignty and interests of the country,” he added.
The ball is now in New Delhi’s court as to how it responds to a MoU that both Bhutan and Bangladesh have already signed.