Regional Energy Cooperation: Need to Establish Trust among Countries
August 07-08, Kolkata, India
“The issue of energy cooperation is less on economical dimension and more on political climate” remarked Chandra Kumar Ghimire, Consul General, Consulate General of Nepal, Kolkata. He was speaking at a two-day long dialogue on ‘Regional Cooperation for Energy Security in South Asia’ organised by CUTS International and FES, India at Kolkata on August 07-08, 2014. He emphasised on the need for three components that are crucial towards making energy cooperation and trade work in the region, i.e. supply security, competitiveness and sustainability. Drawing heavily from the positive pitch of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Nepal, he stated that Nepal-India energy cooperation scenario has received a boost due to this visit and Nepal is looking forward to expedite the process.
Jayant Prasad, former Ambassador of India to Nepal highlighted the economic and social loss to the people of the region due to non-cooperation on energy. He emphasised that it is imperative that energy is treated as a ‘commodity’ as against only a right. He also said that regional exchange of ideas and research outcomes can go a long way towards helping governments in the region to come up with policies that are inclusive and cognisant of the potential and possibilities for energy cooperation.
Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International, remarked that it is the ‘trust deficit’ among neighbouring countries that is at the root of the issue. He, however, added that India’s neighbourhood policy has changed, both on paper and practice, in recent times which develops plausible scenarios for the energy cooperation.
Mike Toman, Lead Economist, Word Bank, opined that it will be important to also work out the dispute resolution and loss sharing mechanisms and hinge the discussion on mutual gains that can be taken up at SAARC dialogues.
Omar Faruque, First Secretary, Deputy High Commission of Bangladesh, Kolkata, said that energy cooperation will help Bangladesh to move away from its high dependency on hydro-carbon fuel. He laid stress on the need to give importance to renewables and energy efficiency when speaking about energy security in the region.
Dasho Karma Tsering Namgyal, Consul General, Royal Bhutan Consulate, Kolkata said that it is important to encourage public-private partnerships to attract new investments while highlighting the success story of the India-Bhutan energy trade. He also said that development of hydro-projects on joint ownership can help in removing some of the political hurdles to energy trade in the region.
Various other speakers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and India stressed on the need to deepen regional dialogues on this issue with a greater role of the SAARC platform, harmonisation on regional infrastructure and also linkages with larger regional connectivity and economic integration issues in the region. The event had participation from around 80-90 participants comprising policymakers, subject experts, academicians, civil society and media representatives from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.