Sheikh Hasina-Modi Summit 2022: Exploring Energy Cooperation

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Energy has emerged as a major concern in today’s world, owing to the war in Ukraine and the global pandemic, with countries rethinking their schemes regarding energy production and its uninterrupted supply chain network. This realisation has ushered in the advent of energy as a ‘geopolitical pivot’ in both bilateral and multilateral realms. The energy crisis in different ways leads the global and regional economies to newer forms of economic downturns. Against such a backdrop, the recent visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina to India carries a substantial amount of hope for Bangladesh and the entire South Asian region since the domain of energy cooperation was well covered during the bilateral summit. India is enjoying an abundance in the energy sector which paves the way for Bangladesh to tap into it, The enhanced cooperation could help open new horizons in regional cooperation since Bangladesh and India are amongst the most advanced economies in the South Asian region.

The recent visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina to India carries a substantial amount of hope for Bangladesh and the entire South Asian region since the domain of energy cooperation was well covered during the bilateral summit.

The cooperation between Bangladesh and India in the power industry began with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 11 January 2010. On 5 October 2013, the first cross-border connection between Bangladesh and India was put into operation. The power transfer capacity over the Behrampur-Bheramara link increased to 1,000 MW on September 10 2018, with the commissioning of a second 500 MW HVDC block at the Bheramara back-to-back station. To reinforce the connectivity and increase dependability, a second 400 kV double circuit line was built between Behrampur and Bheramara, and its first circuit was powered on 14 June 2021. From the North-Eastern region of India, an additional linkage has been made to Bangladesh (Tripura state). On 17 March  2016, a 63-km long, 400 kV double circuit line connecting Surjyamaninagar, India, and Comilla, Bangladesh, was put into service.

The summit was held from 5-8 September in New Delhi. At a time when the world is witnessing an energy crisis, Bangladesh and India are working hand in hand to ensure the energy regime is stable.

Efforts undertaken for energy cooperation

Among the projects inaugurated, a major one is Unit I of the Maitree power plant. The 1,320 (660×2) MW supercritical coal-fired thermal power plant in Rampal, Khulna is being set up at an estimated cost of approximately US$ 2 billion, with US$ 1.6 billion as Indian Development Assistance under Concessional Financing Scheme. This portrays the intent of both governments to put together their efforts to strengthen cooperation in the energy regime.

Before that, the export of coal from India to Bangladesh commenced from 2 July  2021 for the power plant. Stability in terms of coal supply will be the key to maintaining a continuous production of electricity which will ensure the sustainability of the grid.

The Bangladesh government is also allowing private investment in the energy sector from outside Bangladesh. Before the year 2022 is completed, businessman Gautam Adani intends to begin sending electricity from a coal-fired facility in eastern India to Bangladesh, easing the latter’s energy woes. After meeting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in New Delhi, Adani Power Ltd. said that it would launch a 1.6-gigawatt facility in the state of Jharkhand and dedicated distribution lines for the exports, by 16 December.

The two leaders also decided to swiftly undertake projects to synchronise the electricity systems of their respective nations, including the creation of the proposed high capacity 765 KV transmission line from Katihar (Bihar) to Bornagar (Assam) through Parbatipur in Bangladesh, through a properly constituted Bangladesh—India Joint Venture for a Special Purpose Vehicle. In the area of power, an intensification of sub-regional cooperation was agreed upon. India was asked to import power from Nepal and Bhutan. The Indian authority stated that India already has the snecessary regulations in place.

Meanwhile, given the delays caused by the severe floods in Assam and Meghalaya, the Indian government also welcomed Bangladesh’s prompt support in facilitating the shipment of petroleum, oil, and lubricants from Assam to Tripura via Bangladesh. Besides, the decision of Bangladesh to designate Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL) as a recognised G2G exporter of refined petroleum products to Bangladesh was also appreciated by India.

The Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline, which will help meet Bangladesh’s energy needs by allowing the transportation of high-speed diesel from India to Northern Bangladesh, was assessed by Bangladesh and India.

Energy Prospects

The Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline, which will help meet Bangladesh’s energy needs by allowing the transportation of high-speed diesel from India to Northern Bangladesh, was assessed by Bangladesh and India. The INR 346 crore Pipeline Project will link Parbatipur in Bangladesh’s Dinajpur district with Siliguri in India’s West Bengal. The 130-kilometre pipeline will have a yearly capacity of 1 million metric tonnes.

The Indian authority was also asked to help Bangladesh meet its domestic demand for petroleum products. The Indian government promised to arrange talks between the two countries’ designated agencies.

Sub-regional level: SASEC, BBIN and BIMSTEC

The visit connected some dots to ensure further cooperation through the sub-regional channels like SASEC, BBIN, and BIMSTEC. All of them have energy-related dictums to be followed and some MoUs were also signed. This visit, therefore, gives some fresh insights and tools to furnish the ideas and platforms where energy cooperation can be bolstered in the sub-regional realms. Bangladesh, having excellent geographical features enjoys leverage in its internal connectivity sphere and can be a good option for the regional powers to address the energy crisis. Moreover, Bangladesh for its geostrategic location can be a very effective bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. The recent infrastructural development of Bangladesh will bolster the collaboration in a new dimension at the regional level. Therefore, an energy exchange can boost the features of cooperation as well as bring stability to the energy regime.

Bangladesh, having excellent geographical features enjoys leverage in its internal connectivity sphere and can be a good option for the regional powers to address the energy crisis.

Conclusion

The distribution of natural resources, and the patterns of energy consumption remain unique to each nation and region. Cross-border links make it possible to maximise resource distribution while enhancing the region’s energy security and resilience. Due to their rapid economic expansion, two of the world’s fastest-growing economies—Bangladesh and India—are driving up global energy demand. The past 10 years have seen successful and smooth energy collaboration between Bangladesh and India. This cooperation serves as a model for future cross-border successes and synergies in the South Asian region.

Published in ORF [Link]

– Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).