India has been playing a key role in creating a new energy ecosystem
India has been playing a key role in creating a new energy ecosystem

Neighbourhood-first: India helps Maldives and Bangladesh light up their streets

  • The South Asia-focused neighbourhood-first policy is an initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • India has been supplying power to Bangladesh and Nepal and has also been championing a global electricity grid

New Delhi: As part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's playbook of creating a new energy security architecture for its neighbours, India has installed smart LED (light-emitting diode) streetlights in Maldives and Bangladesh; under the aegis of India’s ministry of external affairs (MEA).

These strategic projects undertaken by state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) will help Maldives and Bangladesh illuminate their streets, reduce their peak electricity demand, help in energy savings and reduce carbon dioxide emission. The South Asia-focused neighbourhood-first policy is an initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a cornerstone of his government’s foreign policy.

“We have just completed the entire Male street lights. Recently we did a joint investment in Maldives for around 2500 street lights. We are doing this with MEA," Saurabh Kumar, managing director of EESL told Mint.

India has been trying to draw the strategically situated archipelago deeper into its orbit, away from the embrace of strategic rival China. Ties between India and the Maldives have altered dramatically especially after the election of Ibrahim Mohammed Solih as president in September. This came after tensions between India and the Maldives over the latter’s close ties with India’s strategic rival China during the tenure of Solih’s predecessor Abdullah Yameen.

India has been playing a key role in creating a new energy ecosystem with some of its neighbours to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative that is aimed at connecting countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe. India has been supplying power to Bangladesh and Nepal and has also been championing a global electricity grid that may initially aim to link countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam with the sub-continent.

“So we have done a bit of work under a MEA grant in Bangladesh. It was a small project involving 500 street lights. Now we are trying to push in South East Asia—Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia," Kumar added.

This comes in the backdrop of Bangladesh’ prime minister Sheikh Hasina’ ongoing visit to India. Ties between the two countries have shown remarkable warmth and growth since India’s parliament ratified the 1974 land boundary pact in 2015 and the two countries signed a fresh agreement. Bangladesh is the recipient of $ 8 billion in lines of credit from India in the past seven years — the largest amount in lines of credit extended to any country by India.

India’ energy diplomacy initiatives range from cross-border electricity trade to supplying petroleum products and setting up liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. Apart from building power projects in Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, India already has power grid links with Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, and plans to develop power transmission links with Sri Lanka.

EESL is leading India’s ambitious energy efficiency programme that seeks to reduce carbon emissions as part of the country’s climate change goals.

As part of India’s strategy to combat climate change, EESL commissioned one crore smart LED streetlights across the country under the world’s largest streetlight replacement programme, thereby helping avoid 1,119.40 megawatt (MW) of peak electricity demand. These streetlights are illuminating 2.7 lakh km of roads, resulting in annual energy savings of 6.71 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) and helping reduce 4.63 million tons of carbon dioxide emission.

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