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India’s development cooperation in Bhutan’s hydropower sector: Concerns and public perceptions

Udisha Saklani
Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; us267@cam.ac.uk

Cecilia Tortajada
Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore; cecilia.tortajada@nus.edu.sg

ABSTRACT: The global landscape of international development is undergoing a rapid transition, with emerging actors playing a significant role in meeting the developmental needs of developing-country partners. Over the past six decades, India has emerged as a major donor and development partner, directing a significant share of its assistance and investments to countries in South Asia. This paper provides an overview of Indiaʼs development cooperation with Bhutan, the largest and one of the oldest beneficiaries of Indian assistance, with special attention to the hydropower sector. In recent years, the scale of Indiaʼs disbursement and development cooperation activities in Bhutan has come under scrutiny. In this paper, we document the official views, and those of the international organisations and the media in India and Bhutan, on the possible repercussions of these activities in the near, medium and long term and how the different concerns are being addressed. We argue that in future India will have to work harder to alleviate the key concerns of stakeholders in Bhutan regarding Indiaʼs growing investments there.

KEYWORDS: Hydropower, energy development, public perception, development assistance, India, Bhutan