China has forced India to invest and take a keen interest in nations like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives – that Delhi once considered as its backyard and not much of a strategic value. With China looking to increase its footprints globally, India has intensified its development assistance to South Asian neighbours and Bangladesh has been the biggest beneficiary.
A wide range of projects, including $300-million Afghan-India Friendship Dam and Rooppur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh have benefited from lines of credit with low-interest rates offered by the Modi government.
Out of lines of credit worth $25 billion given to 61 countries around the world since 2012, almost $11.6 billion or 46% has gone to India’s neighbours, according to sources.
Aid worth $4.2 billion has been provided to SAARC nations, excluding Pakistan, and Myanmar since 2013-14, compared to $1.67 billion in grants for these countries between 2008 and 2013.
This has resulted in a push for railway links with Nepal and Bangladesh, and railway projects within Myanmar. The railway link between Nepal’s Janakpur and Jaynagar in Bihar is expected to be operational soon. India recently also supplied 18 locomotives to Myanmar as part of a $679-million assistance package.
In Afghanistan, after completing the Afghan-India Friendship Dam and the Parliament building, India is set to develop Shahtoot dam in the Kabul river basin, a project to supply much-needed drinking water to the Afghan capital.
Another focus area in Afghanistan is small development projects, worth $1 million or less, with 560 such ranging from schools to health centres and women’s vocational training centres, already being launched in all 34 provinces of the country. A total of $200 million has been committed for these projects.
Bangladesh has been the biggest recipient of lines of credit, having amassed $7.86 billion, a majority of it in the past four years. Much of the funds are meant for connectivity and infrastructure projects such as ports, railway lines and roads. India is now set to begin tendering for the transmission and distribution network for the 2.4 GWe Rooppur nuclear power plant being built in northwest Bangladesh jointly by India and Russia.
The Indian assistance, however, is overshadowed by the billions of dollars pumped in by China. Beijing does not publicise official figures for loans and assistance, though figures from the American Enterprise Institute revealed that between 2012 and 2018, China invested $8.06 billion in Myanmar, $43 billion in Bangladesh, $20 billion in Sri Lanka, $5.45 billion in Nepal and $420 million in Afghanistan.
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