Thursday, October 1, 2015

The politics of Hydro projects of Bhutan.

It is  interesting and quite an intrigue. It is often thought that if Nepal had cooperated with India to construct hydro projects, India would not have made so much investment in Bhutan in developing  the same. And mind you it is not just a recent retrospection. This thought has been expressed by very senior Bhutanese officials before.

Lyonpo Om Pradhan shares similar thought in his book , " Roar of the Thunder Dragon ". And Lyonpo was very senior active player in the pre democracy Bhutanese Government.

The 1st Prime Minister of Democratic Government of Bhutan, His Excellency Lyonchen Jigmi Thinley and his Cabinet Ministers also felt that Bhutan grabbed the opportunity whilst Nepal dilly dallied.

I shall not dispute such thoughts but I shall simply write what my personal thoughts are. Mind you, I was never a senior officer in the Bhutanese Government and I have no close contacts with the past or present democratic Governments of Bhutan. And I do not have concrete idea of Nepal politics of past or present. I have one good quality that is managerial quality and keen perspectives of events. I observe with due diligence.  I read a lot and do not base my thoughts on personal prejudice. And often my observations have proved to be right lucky.

After Chukha Hydro project, Tala hydro project was taken up. India badly wanted to do this project. In fact at one time it was referred to as Chukha Hydro Project II.  His Majesty the 4th King tied the Tala Project with the Dungsum Cement Project. The two projects were signed at New Delhi the same time and I recall late Lyonpo Dawa Tsering the Foreign Minister of Bhutan calling the two Agreements " historic ". India was not at all in favour of taking up the Dungsum Cement Project. And the delaying tactics that followed is also historic.

As years followed possibly the performance of Chukha Hydro Project convinced His Majesty the potentialities of the Bhutanese fast flowing rivers. The King called  the river sources white gold a kind of comparative term to black gold of   OPEC  that brought about economic magic for petroleum nations.

Did Bhutan outsmart Nepal in drawing Indian hydro investments to Bhutan from its intended destination in Nepal ? In my opinion the answer is no, not at all. And here are my reasons. If I had tonnes of money and I had the opportunity to invest in two similar locations which one should I choose ?  Would it be at the location where I had 100% control or 75% control ? Hydro Project is a long term investment. The gestation period is comparatively long but production is quite constant and raw material which is water is near infinite under a well protected natural environment. The key crucial factor is the security of the hydro plants and delivery system of transmission lines and my capacity to have de facto control of all these equations. Therefore,  if I were India and the choice of location Nepal and Bhutan  for investment, where would India invest ?
Why do you think India is against the Amochu Hydro Project under Samtse Dzongkhag? Is it too near to China ?

Bhutan is a natural strategic choice of India not Nepal for hydro project investment by India. This is not to say that India does not have investment interests including that of hrdro projects in Nepal. However,  I do not believe Bhutanese leaders had to try to take away hydro investments of India from Nepal. India has a heavier presence in Bhutan than in Nepal though Nepal is a far larger Country. Bhutan is simply ideal for India to construct its power supply plants.

Politically there will be Bhutanese and Nepalese who do not like each other and do not support each other. Some may even try to sabotage. However, geo-politically it would be self defeating for both Nepal and Bhutan to wish that the other either fell under India or China. Independent  Sovereignty of two Countries actually strengthens each other. In fact if Tibet and Sikkim were still independent States, Nepal and Bhutan would be in more comfortable position.

So there is not much national reasons for Bhutan to rejoice at present predicament of Nepal. Its not choosing Nepal over India or testing what China would do. By the way, China is no more what it was 25 years ago. It has surged far ahead and if any Bhutanese political faction thinks China will desert Nepal, such thoughts would be sand blinding. I hope it is not a reflection of Indian view. That would be a repeat of 1962 miscalculation of otherwise astute statesman Nehru. I personally pray for amicable solution to the ongoing India Nepal tussle. It will be good for Nepal, India and even Bhutan for India Nepal to co-exist in peace and harmony.

1 comment:

  1. I know there is a narrative among certain circles, particularly India and those 'Free Tibet' folks in the West that Tibet was invaded by China. But the fact of the matter is there is not a single state at any time recognizes Tibet as an independent country. All countries that has diplomatic relations with China recognize China's sovereignty over Tibet. The only country that was different at one time is Britain. Britain recognized China's suzerainty over Tibet but this was only because Britain itself has ambitions over Tibet. That was the heyday of colonialism and the British Raj was beginning to expand into area traditionally Tibetan (just as it was expanding into area traditionally belongs to Bhutan). Britain reversed its position in 2008 and recognized China's sovereignty over Tibet since.

    Tibet did get invaded, by India. In 1951, four years after the creation of India, India trek up the Himalayans and march into Tawang and annexed it and in the process complete what the British Raj has started but never completed. Tawang is the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama and home to one of the holiest Tibetan monasteries. Today the draconian AFSPA, which is imposed in Kashmir is also imposed in South Tibet.