Neighbours are made by geography. Able and visionary political leadership make the same neighbours close relatives. Separated only by 22 kilometres, Nepal and Bangladesh are moving closer to forge a partnership of Trust and Goodwill. The two neighbours nurture Ideal Friendship and Cooperation which will be a role model for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia. Currently the two countries are moving in a spirit of win-win partnership and the hydro-power sector has proven to be such a pivotal area wherein the two countries are finding a viable link to bind the two people together. This will also enable mutual cooperation and mutual benefit.
Bangladesh is power-deficit. Nepal too was power deficit for many years but thanks to major projects nearing completion, there is going to be surplus power during the rainy season. Nepal exports power to India during the wet season and imports from India during the winter. There is also possibility of power slippage if Nepal does not export during its wet season which is why the power trading agreement with India has historic significance. According to the Asian Development Bank, Nepal has about 42 gigawatts of hydropower potential that it can actually harness, out of 89 total. Of that 42, at present, the country only harnesses 1.2 gigawatts. As Bangladesh’s internal power demand rises every year, it is going to be imperative for Bangladesh to look for options. Nepal can help in this regard and thereby help itself. This will not only generate revenue but also change the entire energy landscape of South Asia. It will also give new impetus and means and goal to the concept of sub-regional cooperation in South Asia.
We must also be cognizant of the fact that India has a unique position in the region. It is going to be the 5th largest economy in the world with rapid economic development and therefore it needs dependable power supply. Actually, it is a bottom-less pot as far as energy is concerned. Till today, it has not been very eager for a tri-partite agreement between itself with Nepal and Bangladesh on power purchase, water sharing and power supply. India has preferred a bilateral approach. It must be recalled that back in 1998, India had agreed to provide Fulbari corridor to Nepal for trade and transit. In 2010, Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh had agreed to grant Nepal and Bhutan access to Bangladesh ports. Likewise, in 2017 PM Hasina had requested PM Modi for facilitation of cross-border power sector cooperation with Nepal. India has to first buy more power from Nepal. Second it has to facilitate the construction of cross-border transmission lines between Nepal and Bangladesh. There should also be seamless surface transport from Nepal to Bangladesh.
There has been delay of decades to realize this dream but things are changing slowly. We need to be optimistic of the fact that Nepal and Bangladesh are keen to reduce the geographic distance between them and promote sub-regional cooperation in the areas of power, water, trade, transit and connectivity. Bangladeshi tourists are contributing to the Post-COVID recovery in the Nepali tourism industry. Currently, Nepal has direct air connections with Dhaka, Thimpu, New Delhi and Colombo among South Asian capitals.
PM Sheikha Hasina is the senior most Prime Minister of South Asia. In the present context of flux and dis-order in the international scene, there is a new paradigm shift in the relations between Nepal and Bangladesh. This will promote peace, stability, amity and progress in this sub-region.