Cross-border trade in electricity has the potential to be a game-changer in bilateral relations. Once grid interconnections are in place and power starts flowing, a sense of continuity is imparted to the relationship and electricity can transform into the driver for diplomacy.
There is no better example of electricity being used a successful unifier than the West-African Power Pool (WAPP), a cooperation initiative kicked off over a decade ago linking national electricity companies of nations that includes Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. What is noteworthy is that during the second half of the last century, a number of these countries were on opposite sides of bloody military conflicts. Setting aside the differences, they have now transformed the WAPP into the most dynamic power pool in Africa, spanning 190 km of lines strung across over 15 countries. There are other successes, including the Nord Pool, the Central American Electrical Interconnection and the South American Regional Energy Integration.
South Asia, despite the SAARC, has a long way to go. But the rapid progress in India’s electricity diplomacy efforts with Bangladesh is a significant achievement in this context. The crucial 71-km Baharampur-Bheramara link between the electricity grids of the two countries is tentatively set for commissioning on October 5. On Friday, the lines will be switched on for testing.
The project will transfer up to 500 MW from India to power-starved Bangladesh. The capacity of the interconnection can be upped to 1000 MW which means the electricity trade can be ramped up swiftly in the coming years. Land at Bheramara has already been bought to create an additional HVDC buffer terminal for doubling the capacity of the line and this can be done over the next three years.
It is a major milestone to strengthen bilateral relationship when India is desperate to make amends for its inability to deliver on two key pacts with Bangladesh, the one on Teesta waters and the land boundary pact between the two countries. With Pakistan too, much ground had been covered in talks to interconnect the grid at the Amritsar-Lahore junction. Things were progressing well till the middle