Prime Minister-Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the 720 megawatts (MW) Mangdechhu hydropower project in Bhutan during his visit on 17-18 August, underlining the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s “neighbourhood first” policy, as well as India’s special relationship with the strategically located Himalayan nation.
India is helping Bhutan build 10,000MW of hydropower with concessional finance, with the overall investment expected to be about $10 billion. State-run NHPC Ltd, India’s largest hydropower firm, was the design and engineering consultant for the strategically important Mangdechhu project. This will be Modi’s first trip to Bhutan since the China-India military face-off in 2017, triggered by an intrusion by Chinese troops into territory claimed by Bhutan. The Mangdechhu project has been completed and is likely to be inaugurated by the honourable prime minister. It has been done in very good time and is of good quality.
Hydropower projects have the ability to improve the per capita income in areas where they come up. Singh cited the example of Bhutan, wherein a substantive part of electricity generated is bought by India. According to the Indian embassy in Thimphu, hydropower exports provide more than 40% of Bhutan’s domestic revenues, and constitute 25% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Bhutan, strategically located between India and China, has the potential to generate 30,000MW of hydropower, but has a capacity of just 1,490MW.
India has also helped Bhutan build the Penden cement plant, Paro airport and the Bhutan Broadcasting Service Station. China has also been trying to impress Bhutan, seeking to open an embassy in the country, which has diplomatic missions from only three countries—India, Bangladesh and Kuwait.