Effective diplomacy to tap the “untapped might of the himalayas”

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  • 1. EFFECTIVE DIPLOMACY TO TAP THE “UNTAPPED MIGHT OF THE HIMALAYAS” Keshav Prasad BhattaraiIn a stupefying article “The Untapped Might of the Himalayas” Stanley A. Weiss in ‘The New YorkTimes’ on May 11, 2005 had asked a pertinent question : ‘what do have the common- among Nepalsbrutal Maoist rebellion, Indias violence-wracked northeastern states, Chinas global energy racewith India, warming ties between Pakistan and India and Bangladeshs increasing Islamicextremism? And the single word answer Weiss gave was the “Water”.Further he said „thousands of glacier-fed rivers of Nepal and Bhutan could serve as the centerpieceof a long-term regional energy strategy promoting stability and prosperity across South Asia‟.According to UN Secretary General “Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth,increased social equity and an environment that allows the world to thrive” but unfortunately onefifth of the world population live without access to electricity and the three billion people have torely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for their household fuel need.What could be termed as energy poverty has forced billions to darkness, ill health and missedopportunities without a descent condition of living.Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma was quoted by South Asian News Agency in February 18,2012 stating “India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan have a combined hydropower potential of 200 GW (1GW = 1000 MW), of which more than three-quarters is yet to be harnessed.”Sharma‟s visit – the first of an Indian commerce minister in 30 years, emphasized for a cost-effective power supply to retain their competitiveness in manufacturing and proposed for a $ 3billion trans-national power grid across South Asia critical to ensure energy security in the regionand help substantial cost saving. Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar told the Nepali journalists atthe end of Global Bihar Summit 2012 that Nepal can become the richest country of South Asia if itexploits its water resources and manages the Himalayan Rivers that flow through Nepal and India.And Nepal‟s Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai inaugurating the very Global Bihar Summit inPatna on February 17 not only mentioned the need for harnessing the huge hydro power potentialfor mutual benefit but also highlighted on the “tremendous scope for joint-venture investments onboth sides”.Besides, South Asia as one of the least integrated region in the world living with dismal situation ofpoor infrastructures along the border regions of the countries has left the region infested withpoverty, communal strife and terrorism.
  • 2. To get rid of these entire odd situation, in the words of a former Indian finance and foreignminister Jaswant Singh had his own prescription: South Asia needs a “grand accord thatreconciles”the deepest national security interests of all powers in place of “today‟s frozen regionaldiplomacy”.ENSURE SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FOR ALL OR FACE PROLONGED WAR SITUATIONSWhatever change may take place in global scenario– the global population will continue to grow, morewealth will be produced and more and more energy will be needed to satisfy the ever increasing sizeof the global economy. All this amply indicates that if diplomacy and foreign policy of all major andsmaller powers is not be woven around satisfying their energy needs and sustain their prosperity,there will be more conflicts within states and among states.Hydroelectricity however coupled with some impending ecological risks is obviously the best optionfor the cheapest and environmental friendly source of our energy need. Therefore many Nordic andSouth American countries are almost completely dependent on hydro power for their energyrequirements.According to „Green World Investor’ Venezuela, Norway and Paraguay are almost 100% dependent onhydro power. Paraguay also exports massive portion of its hydro power to neighboring countries.Brazil, Switzerland, New Zealand are some other countries with a very high percentage of hydropower. China has the largest installed hydroelectricity capacity in the world with 200 Giga Wattsfollowed by Canada, USA, Brazil, Russia, India, Norway, Japan and Venezuela.Energy markets define global market necessitating clean, efficient as well as advanced energysaving technologies. In this bid United Nations under the initiation of Ban Ki-moon has formed aHigh Level Group representing governments, business, investors and civil society to solve the globalenergy crisis, uphold global growth engine and ensure sustainable energy for all.The “Ban Ki-moon Initiative” has three goals – “ensuring universal access to modern energy services,doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energyin the global energy mix.”As estimated by the World Bank there will be 50 percent increase in world population by 2050 andthe size of the world economy will be three times bigger than it is now. According to HSBC the 19of the 30 largest economies will be emerging economies with China as the largest and India thethird largest economy in 2050. The collective size of those emerging economies will be bigger thanthe developed economies.However the energy need and energy security of these emerging economies will put the global orderunder continuous stress and threat of war. China‟s rising rivalry with its neighbors in the SouthChina Sea with its potential oil reserve has exposed the region with new geopolitical frictions.Heavy Chinese dependence upon Arab oil and its huge oil tankers passing through a long sea routeunder U.S. and Indian navy‟s surveillances has forced China go through a "string of pearls" navalstrategy across the Indian Ocean encircling India from Gwadar in Pakistan to Sittwe in Myanmarand Chittagong in Bangladesh. China‟s new aircraft carrier and fleets of advanced submarines with
  • 3. advanced weaponries that is claimed to have outnumbered US submarines in the region would playa defining role if China feels its oil route risked.EFFECTIVE DIPLOMACY TO TAP THE “UNTAPPED MIGHT OF THE HIMALAYAS”Hydro-electric potential of China and South Asia exceeds 400 GW and that if developed in acombined strategy can satisfy the major energy need of all these countries. More than energysecurity it will unleash forces of trust and good will that ultimately will promote stability and hugeprosperity across South Asia and inner parts of China fallen behind.Apparently, South Asia and China has been suffering from the tyranny of history, geography andglobal power balances. This has left South Asia as the least integrated region of the world. A WorldBank publication (South Asia – Growth and Regional Integration) says that South Asia is a relativelynew comer to global integration and “History shows that a successful regional integration is oftenpreceded by global integration”. But regional integration as the child of regional cooperation comesacross with sustained growth and development, reducing mistrusts and conflicts among partners.Regional cooperation can also play a vital role in addressing the problems of energy needs of theregion. South Asia is not only least integrated, the parts of the South Asian countries are equallyisolated geographically, politically, economically and psychologically. For example North East India,Kashmir, Northern Bangladesh, outlying mountainous as well as Himalayan region in Nepal, NorthWest Pakistan and Northern Sri Lanka are suffering from poor level connectivity with the nationalmainstream and are developing a sense of isolation reflected adversely in internal politics to crossborder relations.Therefore regional cooperation in trade and transport and proper management of cross borderresources in these far-flung parts of the South Asian countries will open new era of mutual trustthat will minimize conflicts and frictions and in end result give rich dividends to the hydropowerdevelopment of the region.Therefore, beginning from the strategic partnership between China and India on the developmentand joint management of Himalayan waters could pave the way for larger power developmentprojects in South Asia.But India as a global leader has yet to play a lead role in addressing the sensitivities of its smallerneighbors and their legitimate interests on water resources. India‟s small neighbors like Nepal findeasy in licking sometimes its self inflected and at times India inflected wounds followed by its sizecomplex and anti Indian nationalism. However it must not be forgotten that India since itsindependence has not only failed to nurture democratic stability in South Asia but itshighhandedness in the domestic affairs of its smaller neighbors has paved ways for anti democraticand destabilizing forces win power and glamour and also finds easy to deal with them.
  • 4. Undeniably, India as the largest country of South Asia also has the largest stakes in regionalcooperation in trade and hydropower development. Fukushima tragedy has exhibited that nuclearpower can never be a safe and sustainable option for energy need of any country. Consequently if ajoint venture from all SAARC countries, China and some highly credible multinational companiesfrom West is instituted to tap the hydropower potential of South Asia‟s Himalayan region, it willundoubtedly supply safe energy and bring cherished prosperity to South Asia and China. This waywhen the largest population center of the world is integrated and opened to the global markets, itwill also work as a push factor to the developed economy of the world.I would like to quote Ban Ki-moon again –“By working together, by dedicating our energies andresources to our common cause, we have the chance today to set a new course for generations tocome. We can create the future we want.” kpbnepal@gmail.com ‘The reporter’ weekly (February 27- March 4) 2012 www.thereporter.com.np