“neighbourhood first” policy, which seeks to counter China’s growing economic influence in South Asia

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FILE PHOTO: Workers unload coal from a supply truck at a yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India October 12, 2021 Reuters

Reuters

February 4, 2022 4:19 PM

Coal India Ltd, the world’s largest coal miner, plans to directly export output to Bangladesh and two other neighbouring countries, according to sources and documents seen by Reuters, after decades of exclusively supplying domestic consumers.

The state-run company also plans to export to Nepal and Bhutan, according to a draft policy sent to the secretary of India’s coal ministry and reviewed by Reuters, as a part of India’s “neighbourhood first” policy, which seeks to counter China’s growing economic influence in South Asia.

The proposal was presented at an internal board meeting on corporate strategy in October 2020 and was confirmed by Coal India’s chairman to Reuters this week, although a critical coal shortage in India now means the first such shipments would be unlikely until the end of this year.

“We would have ideally wanted to start exporting this financial year (ending March 2022), if not for the energy crisis,” Coal India Chairman Pramod Agrawal told Reuters, noting the current priority was to address domestic demand.

Under the proposal “3% of Coal India’s annual production will be earmarked separately for exports” with the main focus on encouraging bulk trade for the long-term.

The export push is seen as a longer-term pivot that would help Coal India diversify its revenue streams and boost New Delhi’s push to firm up ties with strategically important neighbours.

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However, the proposal has more recently been overshadowed by India’s own coal shortage at home, which means the first shipments would be unlikely until the end of 2022, according to Agrawal.

India – which relies on coal for nearly three quarters of its electricity supply – is yet to fully recover from the crunch that forced power cuts, which lasted up to 14 hours a day in some northern states.

Compounding those woes, international coal prices have soared due to a surprise temporary export ban by top exporter Indonesia and large purchases from European buyers concerned that an

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