May 19, 2013 | 01:31 AM (BD Time)
19 May, 2013 Sunday
ADB role, ‘investments’ in Indian power projects
Altaf Parvez and MM Ali :
The visit of the Indian prime minister in Bangladesh last week that ended in a fiasco could not even raise the issue of the involvement of multilateral banks particularly ADB in the infrastructure projects in India. The ADB sponsored projects particularly in the energy sector has regional implications.
It is not unknown that multilateral banks including the ADB and World Bank are now engaged in mega projects like power and infrastructure in the north eastern regions of India. For one such project - the Palatana Power Project undertaken in Agartala of Tripura Stare of India Bangladesh has granted a free corridor.
Since India has forced through the corridor depriving the people its legitimate fee, some feel that the policy makers in the country now should raise the issue before the public as the multilateral banks always talk of pro-poor and pro-environment policies. This is particularly important against the backdrop of the Indian PM's visit that failed to strike a deal with regards to the proposed water agreement or even discuss the issue of disputed maritime boundary between the two countries.
Denying Bangladesh its legitimate fee for transportation of over dimensional cargo through a corridor passage in the country for a power project supported by multilateral banks raise various questions. Most important among them probably is whether the multilateral banks are aware of Indian manoeuvring to deprive the people of Bangladesh. What role the multilateral banks can play in shaping up the future relationship between the two countries will probably be worth observing.
There is no denying that the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Singh arrived at the Dhaka Airport at 11:55 am (local time) on Tuesday (Sept 6) amidst media hype and high expectations. The visit was also crucial on grounds as Bangladesh was expected to facilitate passage through the country and allow the use of Chittagong and Mongla Ports for Indian business and trade, while agreement for water sharing on a major river system was also expected to be reached between the two countries.
Agreements however were reached on the issue of land boundary demarcation, exchange of enclaves and adversely possessed land. The dispute of maritime boundary initially considered for resolution during this visit was, however, excluded from the list of agenda even before the arrival of the Indian Prime Minister.
India's last moment refusal to sign a water treaty came not only as a surprise but also created an anti-climax to the situation to say the least. Bangladesh reacted and withdrew itself from allowing use of its land for Indian connectivity projects and also refused the use of its sea ports facilities.
It needs to be seen now as to how India plays its water card against Bangladesh to push through with corridor passages across the country, establish hold over its sea ports and reap economic, strategic and political benefits from the troubled north eastern region, engaged in a bloody war of independence ever since the British left the subcontinent in 1947.
Refusing the water deal and excluding the maritime boundary issue from his agenda the Indian Prime Minister probably made his distrust clear towards Bangladesh, unfolding his game plan for the country.
The role of multilateral banks especially the ADB at this point of time will be worth observing as they have already made huge investment in India's infrastructure, hydro power projects as well as water projects in the north eastern regions that will have ramifications in the whole sub-continent. With billions of dollars investment in Indian projects having geo-political implications in the region how will the multilateral banks get clean slate or distance themselves from the Indian designs will require close scrutiny.
Assistance of the multilateral banks for the Palatana Power Project in Agartala for which India got the corridor through Bangladesh and later executed it free of cost is not unknown. Carrying of Over Dimensional Cargo (ODC) is expensive than the normal cargo all over the world. India's refusal to deny the people of Bangladesh its legitimate charges is only reflective of its mindset towards the country. The attitude of multilateral banks that talk of pro-poor environment friendly policies for execution of their projects probably will be a very big test case in execution of such projects now.
Realizing the strategic importance of Bangladesh the Indian establishment feels playing the water card and encirclement of Bay of Bengal could provide them sufficient leverage against a country it distrusts.
Cooperation of Bangladesh is essential for successful execution of multi billion dollars projects in its troubled north eastern region, realizes the Indian establishment - that over the years have been arm twisting most of its neighbors including Nepal and Bhutan who also happen to be land locked states.
Bangladesh as no exception also had its share of arm twisting from the Indians ever since the country became independent in 1971. India's refusal for an understanding on water sharing with all countries in the region multilaterally only speaks of its mentality of using the water issue as a card against all its neighbors in the subcontinent.
Indian intervention with the international river systems and denial of water to the country has already rendered thousands of people homeless as climate refugees, critics say questioning the Bangladesh media over its role regarding its own people.
There is however, no denying that with the passage of time things have also changed in India. The country has opened up only the other day and has already attracted huge investment from the multilateral banks.
Whether involvement of multilateral banks in infrastructural projects particularly those in water sector
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