India has concluded a nuclear agreement with Bangladesh in a sign that the bilateral neighbourhood relationship is becoming special. The core of the new engagement is all 21st century — energy, connectivity, security.
“We are politically aligned, security sensitive and economic partners,” said a top source in India.
The nuclear agreement is a three-document package that has been negotiated between the MEA and the Bangladesh department of science and technology over the past few months. But this is only a part of the bigger play the two countries are engaged in.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina inaugurated a 100MW power transmission line from Palatana to Bangladesh, India is preparing to upgrade it to 500MW. Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who visited Dhaka recently, has promised to send diesel to Bangladesh from West Bengal.
India wants to transport LPG and LNG to the northeastern states — through Bangladesh. New Delhi has offered Dhaka a stake in this, letting them share LPG and LNG according to their needs, even as they allow transit of energy to Tripura. In the next stage, India has told Bangladesh, they want to generate power in the northeast and have it pass through Bangladesh, offering them an “offtake”, that is allowing them to take power for own use from the transmission line.
Four Indian companies — BHEL, Reliance, Shapoorji-Pallonji and Adani — have bid to build power plants in Bangladesh. The Indian nuclear deal will equip and train Bangladesh to import their first nuclear power plant from Russia. It’s a very big deal for Bangladesh and almost unique for India. Basically, once all these projects kick in, Bangladesh could be well on its way to becoming a middle-income country in a decade.