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India's global 'power' ambitions

India
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Narendra Modi government's push for a global power grid connectivity for the country through the North East has the potential to transform the face of...

Narendra Modi government's push for a global power grid connectivity for the country through the North East has the potential to transform the face of the region forever.

India has launched consultations with the World Bank as its technical partner to implement an ambitious global electricity grid plan pitched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It is said that with the world grappling with climate change concerns the Prime Minister had directed the officials to prepare a feasibility report for the project announced in 2018.

Though it is early to view the full details, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Ministry is on the job. The World Bank has been approached already and several rounds of consultations will take place for giving it a viable shape.

The proposed global grid plans to leverage solar power generated in one country to feed the electricity demands of other nations.

This comes against the backdrop of China's attempts to co-opt countries into its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a programme to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and power grids, across Asia, Africa and Europe.

What India is planning as a counter measure is not a simple one by any means. This ambitious project will be advantageous for the participating nations and there is no fear or apprehension of any one country exploiting the others as China does in the name of its Belt and Road initiatives.

India has been supplying power to Bangladesh and Nepal and has been championing a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) electricity grid minus Pakistan to meet electricity demand in the region.

Also, power-starved Bangladesh wants to buy electricity from large solar parks being set up in Gujarat and Rajasthan, with fostering cross-border energy trade being an important part of Modi's South Asia-focused neighbourhood-first policy.

In fact, Modi's vision on this subject came in for praise at the International Solar Alliance held in New Delhi sometime back.

His "One-world, One-sun, One-Grid" vision is, so far, most forward looking policy which transcends the countries boundaries.

This is an offshoot of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" concept of Hinduism which should not be negated by anyone.

While the ISA has become India's caling card on climate change and is also being viewed as a foreign policy tool, France had termed it a political project.

Initially, ISA envisaged 121 sunshine countries situated between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn as its members. Narendra Modi later moved it to include United Nations to make it a universal proposal.

Honestly speaking India has pitched ISA as a counterweight to Vienna-based Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) with fossil fuel consumers calling for a global consensus.

This is where India should be careful in promoting it. If it continues to link the energy grid issue with politics or diplomacy, it might lose the favour of some of the neighbouring countries. Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia and Laos are yet to become signatories of the ISA.

Myanmar had signed and ratified the agreement while Cambodia is yet to ratify. India should be patient and use its persuasive skills in achieving its goals.

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