The Indian government is to undertake the building of several commercially unviable hydel or hydroelectric projects in Tajikistan as part of its efforts to gain a strategic toehold in a country that is the gateway to other central Asian countries rich in hydrocarbon reserves.
“Our team had visited Tajikistan as the Indian government wants to have a greater presence there to counter any other influence. The Tajikistan government is very much interested in us building the projects,” said a senior official of National Hydroelectric Power Corp. Ltd who did not wish to be identified.
However, the public sector undertaking, which has been nominated to carry out the construction, has found that these projects are commercially unviable and will need financial support from the government if it is to build them.
India is setting up a military base at Aini, Tajikistan. China and Pakistan, too, have been seeking to enhance their influence in the region, with the former already engaged in constructing road projects in Tajikistan. Tajikistan has borders with China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and is on the trade routes to Europe, China and West Asia.
This and Tajikistan’s proximity to Pakistan-occupiedKashmir (PoK) make the country important to India from a strategic point of view.
Meena Singh Roy, research officer at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis, a New Delhi-based think tank, said that India’s help in setting up hydroelectric power projects in Tajikistan would make “its presence felt in a country of great significance,”—a reference to the strategic importance of Tajikistan.
Countries in central Asia have rich reserves of hydrocarbons and could help meet India’s appetite for and concerns over fuel sources.
India consumes around 112 million tonnes of petroleum products a year and is the world’s fifth largest oil importer—it imports 78% of its energy needs.
Roy added that India is building a road in Afghanistan with plans to link it to Tajikistan. “This is a part of the overall strategy to have access to the Central Asian countries. As we need connectivity with the region, Tajikistan could be the key. This could be achieved through helping them in infrastructure building by setting up hydro-power projects,” Roy added.