The 900 Kms of Hope – India-Bangladesh-Myanmar Gas Pact
The Mohona Holdings Limited, a private Bangladeshi company, raised interest in a tri-lateral gas pipeline project between India-Bangladesh-Myanmar in 1997, as a route via Bangladesh proves to be the shortest route between the gas fields ands energy hungry North East and West Bengal. Through this agreement Dhaka would earn transit fees and also be supplied with gas that would help with the issue of its decreasing natural reserves. By 2005, the energy ministers met in Yangon and finalized the 900km pipeline. The pipeline would originate in the Arakan state (Myanmar), pass through Mizoram and Tripura after which it would run through Bangladesh and terminate in West Bengal. It would also link up with gas pipelines in Assam and Tripura which would allow for distribution to the rest of the north eastern region.
In the Meeting, Dhaka laid down 3 conditions to allow the pipeline to pass through:
1. The condition to allow Bangladesh to import hydroelectric power from Nepal and Bhutan through India,
2. For Nepalese and Bhutanese goods to pass through India with custom terms favorable to Bangladesh, and
3. Removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers on Bangladeshi exports to India. However, Ministry of External Affairs
India stated that, “under no circumstances would it accept any of Bangladesh’s conditions as it would encourage Dhaka to tie up unrelated conditions in future negotiations in other issues, as it is always prone to do.” After which there were new trade routes envisioned for the pipeline which were meant to circumvent Bangladesh. But, they never seemed to work out due to an exponential increase in costs and the route covered areas with rampant insurgencies in the North east and Myanmar. On her return as Prime Minister in 2010, Sheikh Hasina gave her approval to pursue the project. Official talks on the much-delayed India-Bangladesh-Myanmar gas pipeline will start soon, said Bangladesh Deputy High Commissioner to India, Salahuddin Noman Chowdhury in an even held in Delhi on 2nd July, 2015.
A FRUITFUL PROSPECT
The initiation of this pipeline would grant india access to Myanmar’s estimated 90 trillion cubic feet gas reserves, which will be helpful in meeting India’s energy needs. The fact that a private Bangladeshi company would also be a stakeholder in the project is an indicator of India’s growing trust in the Hasina run country, since just a couple of years ago the only two parties in any bi-lateral or tri-lateral talks would have included PSU’s (government puppets) from the respective countries. It is also a great attempt at decentralization of the region which brings hope for Mizoram, Assam and Tripura governments to be at the forefront of talks along with GAIL.
FOR A BIGGER CAUSE
This move would be responsible for propagating the idea of self-sufficiency for the north-east, as they would not have to rely on the centre to provide them with energy resources. They can now acquire it from their own backyard, which would be a huge step towards the larger goal to inculcate the idea of autonomy in the North Eastern Region. This sense of autonomy would also, ironically, help entrench the sense of national identity among the citizens living in the state since they would no longer feel chained by centre’s rules and would be able to identify with the rest of the states in the region. However, this positive outcome is possible only if the Modi government sticks to its stand of co-operative federalism. If it does not then the north east would solely reap the economic benefits of the pipeline but would feel further excluded from the nation-state.
Tanya Rizvi for OhMyIndia!