Dams, development and diplomacy

Over the last five decades, India has invested substantially in energy infrastructure projects abroad. While human rights activism has successfully halted several domestic projects due to well-evidenced environmental impacts and socio-economic costs, India’s hydropower industry has rapidly expanded its operations overseas, particularly in two neighbouring countries, Bhutan and Nepal. In both cases, India lies downstream and builds export-oriented hydropower infrastructure upstream, with the electricity then shared between the builder and the project-host country.

My research focuses on hydropower projects as development assemblages comprising various practices, discourses and processes that rely on specific forms of knowledge, expertise and rationales that succeed in keeping dams on the agenda. Under the IUKDPF programme, I intend to publish working paper(s) that will focus on the discursive framing of Indian hydropower projects in Nepal in relation to electrification and energy ‘security’, and the Indian narrative of South-South cooperation that calls for increased collaboration based on a ‘mutually beneficial’ approach, while legitimizing the security-development nexus which is at the heart of Indian engagement in the neighbourhood.

Name of researcher:
Udisha Saklani, University of Cambridge


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