India taps into Bhutan to counter China

India will push for an increased access for energy companies in Bhutan during the forthcoming visit of the external affairs minister to that country next week. The move is aimed at countering China, which is slowly increasing its presence in the neighbourhood. Several Indian companies are already present in Bhutan doing feasibility studies for Hydel power projects.

India is also concerned that presence of Chinese companies, especially in the power sector, could increase the prospects of such entities making backdoor entry into India's critical infra sector.

According to officials, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid will be on a two-day visit to that country from January 14 accompanied by senior offcials.

With an eye towards Chinese moves, India has already injected some R10,000 crore into Bhutan's 10th five-year plan and is building multiple economic leverages into existing bilateral relationship.

"Bhutan is keen to expand its hydropower horizon," Consul General of Bhutan Dasho Tsering Wangda said. Under an Indo-Bhutan power sector agreement of 2006, India was to receive 5000MW extra hydropower from Bhutan by 2020. It had been subsequently increased to 10,000 MW. "This commitment to India is still our first priority. Bhutan will explore fresh investment possibilities only after fulfillment of that," added Wangda.

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