India's Energy Security

Juli A. MacDonald and S. Enders Wimbush ,Chairman, SAIC, Washington D.C.

 

Growing Asian Energy Demand

The growth in demand for energy in Asia is forecast to surpass growth rates in all other regions over the next decade and beyond. By 2020, the world is projected to consume three times the amount of energy it used before the 1973 oil crisis.1 The US Energy Information Agency predicts that nearly half of the world's projected incremental demand will occur in developing Asia, in which they include principally India, China and the members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), but not Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Asia's current economic crisis has slowed the energy demand growth trends in East Asia, but has not reversed them. Energy analysts around the world have anticipated the Asian economic crisis to be severe but not protracted.2

The dimensions of Asia's demand for energy will shape the international energy world in a number of important ways and have significant consequences. For example:

l Oil demand growth in Asia is expected to be the fastest of any region in the world. The region's oil demand in the year 2000 is expected to average 13.3 million barrels per day (mb/d)--close to Western Europe's 14.3 mb/d. Experts anticipate that by 2020, Asia will consume 28.6 mb/d, which is greater than projected consumption in the United States (24.4 mb/d).3 China's demand for oil will drive this significant increase, growing at approximately 5 per cent per annum. By 2020, China's oil consumption is expected to be approximately 9.5 mb/d.4

l Natural gas is expected to be the fastest growing primary energy source over the next two decades both worldwide and in Asia. Gas consumption in developing Asia is predicted to grow by more than 7 per cent annually from 1995-2020, increasing consumption six fold, from 4.7 trillion cubic feet in 1995 to 27.7 trillion cubic feet by 2020. In industrialised Asia (Australia, Japan, and New Zealand) gas use will grow at a more conservative rate of 1.6 per cent annually, increasing consumption 50 per cent, from 3.1 trillion cubic feet in 1995 to 4.6 trillion cubic feet in 2020.5 Natural gas is abundant in the region, it has minimal environmental effects and relative price stability, which makes it the preferred fuel in many Asian countries and the candidate to reduce reliance on Middle East oil and to make up for potential shortfalls in the nuclear sector.

l Asia consumes far more coal than any other region of the world. Asia's share of total world coal consumption will increase from 40 per cent in 1995 to 60 per cent in 2020 (on a tonnage basis). Coal consumption in the region is projected to increase by more than 3.1 billion tons, from 2.0 billion tons in 1995 to almost 5.2 billion tons in 2020.6 China will account for the majority of the increase in coal consumption, but increased coal consumption is likely to be widespread throughout the region. Only in Japan is coal use likely to decline in response to increasing environmental pressures.

l Across Asia, nuclear capacity is projected to increase from 85.8 to 129.4 gigawatts by 2020. A number of Asian countries currently operate nuclear power plants, including Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, India and Pakistan. At the end of 1996, these six countries had 60.0 gigawatts of nuclear capacity on line, with Japan accounting for 42 gigawatts. With the exception of Japan and South Korea, these programmes are small, but all anticipate some growth in the future. Ambitious government plans to expand nuclear power production in India and China contrast with the limited growth potential in Japan and South Korea, where development of the nuclear sector increasingly is constrained by adverse popular opinion.

Implications of Growing Asian Energy Demand

What do these trends in energy consumption mean for Asian actors?

As Asian energy demand grows, its regional resources, particularly oil resources, are being depleted. As a result, Asia's dependence on extra-regional imports will rise. Dependence on oil imports is expected to rise to approximately 77 per cent by 2010 of which 93 per cent is predicted to come from the Middle East.7 The strategic reality is clear: the Middle East will become more important as the primary supplier of energy to Asia, not less.

Growing energy demand across the region could heighten competition for imports in Asia's regional market. This regional energy market, traditionally dominated by Japan, is now characterised by a number of industrialising economies, all of which will be seeking to meet their growing energy demands. We will likely see Japan's share of oil imports decline relative to the growing demand of other regional consumers, most of whom will have energy-intensive economies; growing energy-consuming middle classes; and few effective energy-conservation measures. China and the ASEAN will make up the largest increase in imports between 2000 and 2010. The economic crisis may have slowed this trend, but it is almost certain that more economies in the region will be dependent on energy imports from outside their region.

More tanker traffic from the Persian Gulf to Asia will be a direct result of this trend. The increased number of oil and liquified natural gas (LNG) tankers coming from the Middle East will increase the pressures on already congested strategic chokepoints and raise new security questions. The Strait of Malacca, in particular, will be a critical chokepoint for a dangerously high amount of energy-related tanker traffic. Even with the slowdown of regional energy demand, it is likely that at least 14 mb/d of oil will flow through the Strait of Malacca from the Middle East to East and North-East Asia by 2010. Recently, this strait has experienced rising levels of piracy, much of it by unflagged Chinese vessels. Environmental problems related to tanker traffic are also a concern. To ease pressure on the Strait of Malacca, future tanker traffic could be partially routed through the Sunda and Lombok Straits, which are controlled by Indonesia. However, instability in Indonesia could make these and other alternative routes problematic, causing new and complex challenges for the energy security of many Asian states. One possible safety valve has not materialised: Malaysia has proposed building a 500,000 b/d trans-peninsular pipeline to alleviate the oil-filled tanker traffic, but the economic crisis has postponed these ambitious plans.

Allow us to make two important points related to the economic crisis and current low oil prices. First, as we know, more than two-thirds of the world's oil reserves are located in the Persian Gulf. In the next two decades, we will see the importance of the Middle East increase as smaller reserves in non-Gulf countries are depleted. Moreover, the persistence of low oil prices also will focus attention on the low-cost production in the Middle East at the expense of other high-cost, non-Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) regions, such as the Caspian and the Russian Far East. Consequently it bears repeating frequently that the strategic reality is that Asian states will become more dependent for energy on the Persian Gulf, not less, as conventional wisdom--which tends to exaggerate the size of energy supplies elsewhere and understate the difficulties in bringing them to market--might suggest.

Second, low oil prices and depressed demand during the last 18 months have encouraged a misguided sense of complacency in the policy processes of many states with regard to energy security. This complacency discourage serious thinking on energy security and diversification strategies at a time when both should be receiving more attention. A number of large-scale energy projects--particularly natural gas projects designed to reduce regional reliance on Middle East oil--have been postponed or delayed since the economic crisis. A recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) energy outlook report warns that lower investment in energy infrastructure and production could induce bottlenecks that prevent the efficient delivery of energy to satisfy increased regional demand growth beyond 2000.8

This is the general picture of energy trends in Asia. Of course, there are many sources of data, and some offer different versions of this picture--but only on the margin, give or take a few hundred thousand barrels per day. However, nearly all data confirm the general trends in Asia. Asian energy consumption will increase across all energy sectors and Asian actors will be forced to search beyond East Asia for the energy to satisfy their growing energy demands.

India: Part of the Developing Asian Picture

How does India fit into the Asian energy picture? As the world's sixth largest energy consumer, India is not only affected by these energy dynamics but is a major part of the trends that we have outlined. India is endowed with a variety of energy resources. Unfortunately, it lacks substantial indigenous supplies of oil and gas. Demand for these commercial fuels has been growing at an average of approximately 5 per cent p.a. and is projected to continue at this rate into the next century.9 Coal is India's most abundant indigenous energy resource, supplying over half of India's total energy demand. India imports coal to meet only 20 per cent of its total energy demand, but it must import approximately 60 per cent of its oil.10 India currently does not import natural gas, but natural gas consumption is expected to double by 2000 and will likely reach 2.3 trillion cubic feet by 2005.11 The Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) and Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) both stress the importance of natural gas in India's middle and long-term future, and both have formulated ambitious plans to expand gas infrastructure to and in India. Again, it is worth emphasising that the rapid increase in consumption will only to be met through imports. Like other Asian states, India will continue to be dependent on the Middle East for oil and will expect a growing dependence on imported natural gas coming from a variety of directions.

It is clear that the government is concerned about meeting India's growing energy demand. Based on our research of publicly available information, we see four major components of an energy strategy emerging:

l Increase the Development of Indigenous Resources--Oil, Gas and Coal. Self-sufficiency appears to be the centrepiece of India's energy strategy, reflecting an ingrained tradition of self-reliance. Increased production will come from discovering new reserves and from employing new exploration and recovery techniques to maximise yields from existing fields. Particularly in the natural gas sector, India seeks to improve efficiency in its production techniques and in its internal distribution infrastructure. The government is heavily dependent on foreign capital and technology to achieve its ambitious goals, and, therefore, appears to be committed to rapid reform and liberalisation of the energy sectors. Incremental reforms began in 1991, but the urgency of India's energy demands has consolidated political support for reforms, thus, accelerating the pace of implementation in the past two years.

l Expand Foreign Exploration Activities. ONGC currently operates in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Tanzania, Vietnam and Abu Dhabi, and is actively seeking to expand its foreign activities. Of particular interest is a link ONGC has forged with the China Natural Gas Exploration and Development Corporation for developing the Caspian energy resources.

l Increase Natural Gas Consumption. Natural gas is projected to be India's fastest growing energy sector, increasing to 15-18 per cent of total demand in the next century.12 A large portion of that increase will be in the power generation sector, as gas-powered power generators replace coal-fired generators. The natural gas will come from indigenous supply, LNG contracts and pipelines. In the medium term, LNG shows great promise. The government plans to import over 10 million tons/year of LNG in the next 10 years and has introduced a plan to build the necessary LNG infrastructure.13 LNG supplies will come from the Middle East and South-East Asian states--Oman, Qatar, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia. Pipeline networks will help meet demand in the longer term. India has discussed a number of pipeline options to import oil and gas, but is wary and cautious about their security, which we will discuss in more detail presently.

l Strengthen Relationships with Middle Eastern Suppliers. As noted, the strategic importance of the Middle East for India, like much of Asia, will increase with respect to the supply of oil and gas. India appears to be cultivating and maintaining relationships with the states in the Persian Gulf astutely. This engagement is by no means one way. The Middle East oil producers have recognised the attractiveness of the Indian market and are actively engaged in India's refining sector in order to secure the Indian market for their crude.

The Emerging Geo-Politics of Asian Energy

India will be forced to calculate its energy security requirements within a more general geo-political environment that is characterised by rapid change and unpredictability. The geo-politics of Eurasia's new energy security equation is complex and challenging, and we do not intend to overly simplify a complex subject. However, we are prepared to make three generalisations about the nature of geo-politics in the region from Central Europe to the Pacific and from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean--the geographic and political contexts in which India and many other countries seek to solve their energy requirements in the next two decades.

First, we have traditionally thought of the geo-politics of energy in Eurasia as having a strong north-south orientation, with Russia playing a central, and, in some cases, dominant role. But the emerging energy security environment is shaping up to be more east-west (or west-east, depending on where one is standing) in the nature of its political, economic and social developments. What is happening in Central Asia illustrates this shift. When the Soviet Union collapsed, many pundits argued that the former republics would never be able to escape Russia's economic and political web. Clearly, some of these new states retain ties to Russia, especially trade ties, but consider this: the leading direct foreign investor in Uzbekistan today is the United States, followed by South Korea; in Georgia, Ireland, the United States, the Netherlands and Israel are all strongly represented; in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, multinational energy investment is coming from American, European and Asian companies; Armenia's leading trading partner is probably Iran; Georgia's is probably Turkey. Other states with significant investment across this region include Turkey, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Germany, Pakistan, the Gulf Arab states and, increasingly, India.

While Russia will remain important to the economies of the Central Asian and Caucasian states, all of them are embarked on a rapid diversification of economic and trade interests that ultimately will pull them east, west and south, that is away from Russia. Russia's influence, already diminished everywhere, will probably continue to fade.

Nowhere do we see this more cogently than in the development of the Eurasia Transport Corridor (ETC), which is now several years in the making and gaining momentum quickly. The ETC is an inspiration of the European Union (EU), and until recently the EU was most interested in promoting it, currently with investments of more than $5 billion. In the last 18 months or so, the US government has also taken an interest in the ETC's development--including the introduction in Congress of a New Silk Road Act--and US companies are now scouring the region for opportunities. The ETC is intended to be a network of telecommunications, energy pipelines and transport infrastructures that link Central Europe to China. European politicians refer to the ETC as a "west-east" link, which is intended, pointedly and explicitly, to reduce Russia's ability to dominate these regions politically and economically. The Chinese are excited about the development of the ETC, and in their writings describe it as an east-west link whose logical endpoints from the Chinese perspective are Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Our point may be summarised this way: north-south dynamics are rapidly giving way to east-west dynamics, not simply in the flow of goods but in the thinking of the peoples affected by them. This shift in thinking will probably have profound consequences in and on Eurasia in the next few decades, and it will ultimately change geo-political relationships, the risk and opportunities calculus, and strategic thinking. For example, as Russia declines, one can imagine that India will assume greater responsibilities for the security, stability and defence of its region. India's logical partners in this endeavour are its strategic neighbours to the east and west, such as Iran, Israel and ASEAN.

Second, the new Eurasia may be characterised by the political and economic weakness at its core. None of the Central Asian or Caucasian states is politically stable, with the possible exception of Georgia. None has its economic house in order, though again Georgia stands out as continuing to sustain positive growth. All, except Georgia and possibly Armenia, lack adequate mechanisms for transferring political power. When the current leaders die, which will be soon, it will set off wild scrambles among elites representing the claims of diverse families, tribes, clans, hordes, cities, and mafias. If energy revenues fail to flow soon, as appears likely, both the supplier states and those that will transport energy will suffer grievous economic setbacks. For example, Kazakhstan, which has most of the Caspian's wealth, is facing a looming budget deficit of at least three per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to low oil prices and slow energy development. And if oil and gas do flow, there is every likelihood that the "Dutch disease"--that is, unsustainable debt spending on infrastructure--will ultimately cause serious economic infections.

Third, this unsettled region may be characterised by its troubled periphery, whch is almost everywhere unstable. In the north, Russia is likely to remain weak and incoherent for a long time, perhaps two decades or more. It could fragment into pieces of different size and political complexity that command dramatically unequal resource bases. China is likely to remain economically strong, but, again, its development is at best uneven across regions and ethnic boundaries. Moreover, China's east is inherently unstable and may be subject to severe disruption. Afghanistan is unlikely to become a coherent state in the foreseeable future, and will continue to be unbalanced by competing ethnic, regional and religious forces. Pakistan constantly flirts with failing as a state, and its collapse would affect everything around it. Iran remains an outcast, at least to Washington, and faces severe economic challenges that have already led to some internal turmoil. The North Caucasus is on the verge of general disruption, which has serious implications for Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The bottom line is sobering. Nowhere around the periphery of Central Asia and the Caucasus can one find political stability, and in most places the dominant feature is instability. Worse, it is hard to imagine where stabilising influences might come from. India is the exception to this pattern, which suggests to us, again, that India's role as a facilitator of political stability in the region could become an important mission.

These three conditions--north-south dynamics becoming east-west dynamics, a soft political and economic core, and potentially tumultuous and unstable peripheries--are key defining characteristics of the new Eurasia.

New Geo-Political Dynamics

What, then, are some of the new geo-political dynamics that should capture our attention?

First, new actors with historical claims or more recent interests in Eurasia are expanding into the political void left by the collapse of the USSR and the inability of Russia to dominate it. Turkey has established a strong grass-roots position in commerce and education--and to some extent religion--throughout the region. Iran, which sees itself foremost as an Asian power rather than a Gulf power, has also extended economic tentacles throughout Central Asia and the Caucasus, where it, too, has historical preoccupations. Pakistan's influence is felt mostly through trade and subversive religious influences, particularly Wahhabism, which, though currently exaggerated by outside analysts and host governments, could grow into a menacing force within a decade. India has returned to Central Asia after nearly a century's respite. Strategic thinkers in India now refer to Central Asia as "India's extended strategic neighbourhood." Both India and Pakistan share a vision of Central Asia as an important energy supplier. China, which shares borders and population with Central Asia and which is experiencing a rapidly growing appetite for energy, could be the most important and aggressive new player. We believe that China has a long-term plan to expand into Central Asia, and that its economic influence will be hard to resist. It is thinkable that within a short period of time, perhaps within two decades or less, Kazakhstan--which will be tied to China by energy umbilical pipelines--will be firmly within China's economic and political orbit. By this time, much of the Russian Far East and eastern Siberia might also have been absorbed by China, on the strength of Japanese capital investment in the substantial Siberian gas fields and against minimal Russian resistance.

India's interests could be challenged if the new politics of Eurasia result in major geo-political realignments that affect its interests. China's strong economic and political offensive in Eurasia to expand its influence for energy and political gain could become worrisome to India. Moreover, the commitment of some states in Eurasia to possess nuclear weapons could intensify in the wake of tests by India and Pakistan. We may expect that Iran will become nuclear in the near future, and that this will push Turkey to develop its own capability or to shelter closely under Israel's. Nearly everywhere, the impetus will be on going nuclear, not getting rid of these weapons. We may even anticipate that formerly nuclear states--Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, for example--could seek to regain their former status or to connect themselves closely to another nuclear state. Because no one will possess second strike capabilities, impediments to the first-strike use of nuclear weapons could be dangerously low.

We must anticipate that all of these players, as well as nearby outsiders like Israel, will develop strategies for pursuing interests in the region and that some of these strategies will conflict. We need to develop a better understanding of what the new of geo-political games will look like, what the strategies of the contestants might be, and where India's interests could be intersected.

Second, energy exploration and transport could come to dominate some of the economies of the region and be major sources of revenue in others. Caspian energy has already attracted many new actors into the region, and it could attract still more. Competition for supply and strategies for protecting transport and possibly targetting the transport of opponents will gradually come to define the link between energy strategy and military strategy in most countries. In other words, we may anticipate that the quest to find and protect energy will drive states to develop particular kinds of military capabilities.

We would also point to the potentially destabilising effects of energy not meeting expectations in the Caspian. It is fully conceivable to us that the Caspian has been badly over-sold, that the amounts claimed by optimists are not there, and that the low price of oil and lower-cost exploration opportunities elsewhere will force many economic players--principally Western energy companies--out of the Caspian, leaving only the strategic players--China, perhaps a weakened Russia and India, perhaps in concert with other regional actors like Iran--to dominate the Central Asian energy sector and the heart of central Eurasia. We suspect that this will change the rules of the game in ways that will affect India's interests and strategies.

Third, Russia will not have sufficient power to re-conquer any of this territory, but it will have relatively more power and the ability to project it than any of the objects of its attention. A highly nationalist Russia that places reconstituting the empire at or near the centre of its ideology will have the motive and means to destabilise most of the countries along its periphery. It might do this with the explicit intent of causing turmoil that impedes particular states from consolidating their own sovereignty, with the idea that Russia will step in to reassert its own claims at a later date when it is more powerful. Russia's ability to meddle thus could be a key factor in the new strategic universe. On the other hand, Russia will remain militarily weak, politically incoherent, economically destitute and demographically sick. But we should not expect Russia to play a constructive role as a balancer of interests in Eurasia.

Fourth, few of Central Asia's borders make sense. All are political borders that were created for a different politics. We should anticipate that some, perhaps many, will become the objects of change. Contemplate Afghanistan for a moment. Its Turkic/Tajik north will be a chief concern for Uzbekistan, which will become the Central Asian hegemon; its Shiite east is already a concern to Iran, which recently threatened war over events there; and its Pushtun south relates closely to Pakistan. We find it fairly easy to imagine a complete dismemberment of Afghanistan along ethnic lines. Nearly every Central Asian and Caucasian state is at some risk in this regard, as are many Middle East states, for example Iraq.

Fifth, demographic change will drive profound internal, and perhaps cross-border change throughout the region. In two decades, both Turkey and Iran will have over 100 million people; Pakistan will have a larger population than Russia; India will be close to becoming the world's most populous country; and Russia will suffer severe population disorders, including absolute decline. The southern rim countries will be exceedingly young; Russia, and increasingly China, will be growing old. We can anticipate mass urbanisation across the region, with all of its attendant social pathologies. These pathologies will be fed by political and economic breakdowns, local conflicts and environmental disasters. We can anticipate human disasters that will require international assistance, such as public health crises, large scale migrations, refugee flows, epedimics and other major social dislocations.

Sixth, non-state actors--terrorists, crime syndicates, ethnic separatists, and others--will proliferate across the region, especially as governments disintegrate and order is harder to maintain. Access to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and off-the-shelf information warfare technology will grow. Some non-state groups may become more powerful than the governments of the states they inhabit.

Seventh, some states will become increasingly non-viable, and they may simply collapse into chaos and conflict. Pakistan is a good candidate; Afghanistan is mostly there already. Iran, if pushed to the logical conclusion of current sanctions against it, might eventually follow suit. The nightmare scenario is everything coming apart at once, which given the overlapping and reinforcing dynamics, is not entirely far-fetched. Thus, we would be faced with most of Eurasia in turmoil.

We could probably extend this list, but already it is long enough to paint a picture of what might take place. We wish to re-emphasise that we are not trying to predict the future. Rather, we are trying to come to grips with how one might think about these problems. India's energy security strategies need to be informed by these possibilities.

How Should India be Thinking About its Energy Security?

The geo-political and energy trends in Eurasia that we have outlined, intersect or will intersect at many levels to affect India's national security interests. How should India be thinking about this intersection of plausible geo-political trends and probable energy trends? In this dynamic Eurasian context, we see a range of challenges and opportunities for India.

The Myth of Self-Sufficiency. Energy self-sufficiency is a laudable, but elusive goal for India. In the first place, improving energy efficiencies in the system is costly and will not keep up with the growth in India's energy demand. In the second, environmental problems associated with burning coal will put downward pressure on coal consumption. In the third, long lead times, political sensitivities on the international stage and difficulties in attracting the necessary foreign investment will complicate India's ambitious plans to expand the nuclear power sector. Therefore, unless India is able to increase its use of renewable resources--solar, biomass, hydro--it will become increasingly dependent on foreign oil and gas. While India undoubtedly can reduce the rate of growth in demand for outside energy, like virtually all other Asian states, it should plan for the risks of having to import oil and gas through pipelines and by sea over possibly considerable distances and across potentially hostile territory.

Multiple Energy Fronts Require Multiple Strategies. Currently, India conducts international energy relations mostly in one direction: it imports most of its oil from the Middle East. In a decade, India's energy--oil and gas--could come from three or four different directions--the Middle East, Central Asia, Bangladesh and South-East Asia. Protecting energy supplies coming from many directions by pipeline and tanker will require a variety of new strategies for developing and maintaining alliances, for political and economic engagement in new directions, and for possible military engagement. What strikes us as particularly important about this new world is that each of the emerging energy fronts poses a different combination of challenges. In the north, India will be faced with its historical problems with Pakistan and the spectre of cascading instability there and in neighbouring states. The challenge will be choosing more secure routes and providing security for energy transport. In the Gulf, India will have to compete with many other Asian states for energy and access, which suggests that the challenge will be one of alliance building, diplomacy and an ability to project some military power, probably naval power. In the Bay of Bengal, India will face direct competition from China in off-shore regions. Gas from Bangladesh must cross potentially hostile territory. Moreover, Bangladesh is increasingly influenced by India's main rivals in the region, Pakistan and China, and in this regard, energy could become a convenient strategic lever on India. The challenge will comprise security, access, diplomacy and intelligence. And in the east, India will face the prospects of a fragmenting Indonesia, an increasingly assertive Japan and a China that aggressively pursues its energy opportunities in its own maritime borderlands. The challenge for India in this theatre will be a bit of security, alliance building, military alertness, and access. In our view, India will need a number of energy security strategies, not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The Need to Compete. India will be no different from any other major developing economy that is increasingly dependent on foreign energy. As all the Asian economies begin growing again, India will find itself in competition with others for energy coming from all four directions. In the Middle East, access to energy could bring India and China into direct competition or conflict, as we may anticipate that China will take steps to secure its own energy from the Persian Gulf, which it will see as threatened by, among others, India. We have no difficulty imagining a Chinese naval build-up in the Gulf and around India's maritime periphery. In Central Asia, the number of economic actors may decline if the projects are not economically viable, but the strategic actors--especially China--will probably remain. Energy security thus creates a new, and somewhat unfamiliar context for India, namely having to compete with other major actors outside its immediate defence periphery.

Safeguarding Energy will Become a Strategic Priority. Although oil and gas are plentiful now--few are worried about energy security in a world awash with oil--in 15 years the market could change and become increasingly tight. India will likely have to form energy alliances to secure access to supplies and to protect energy transport by pipeline and by sea through strategic chokepoints. The Straits of Malacca and Hormuz will be critical chokepoints for India's energy imports. India should be thinking about a naval strategy capable of protecting these chokepoints effectively. This may require increasing naval resources and capabilities and/or forming strategic alliances with others, such as the United States, Japan, Australia and Indonesia. Similarly, pipelines that connect India to Central Asia will be vulnerable to a variety of threats. India will wish to consider these threats and challenges with a view toward developing strategies to pre-empt or reverse adverse situations.

Pakistan: Energy Conflict or Energy Cooperation. Energy strategies might be a way to engage Pakistan in an area of mutual concern and interest. Without cooperation with Pakistan, India's energy vulnerabilities will be much more serious. Both countries look to Central Asia as a key energy supplier in the future. This raises the possibility of an important symmetry that can be exploited to mutual advantage. On the one hand, no pipeline is viable unless Pakistan provides India with a certain security comfort level. On the other, pipelines from Central Asia are feasible economically only if they address the Indian market. Without both security and economic viability, no pipelines are likely to be built, but neither country can provide both security and economic viability. Mutual interest is so well served by cooperation on vital energy security issues that a strategic context divorced from other more contentious issues, such as the Kashmir problem, might be possible. Perhaps cooperation on energy security could be one of the first efforts for India and Pakistan to cooperate on a broader range of issues. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine what kind of security guarantees Pakistan can give India that Indian leaders will believe. Therefore, India may wish to pursue energy cooperation with Pakistan, but it must still plan for the possibility of conflict over energy.

Plan for the Worst Case Scenario. We are trained to think about worst case scenario, so we ask to be forgiven if we stress these over the happy endings. But we are struck by the number of "things that can go wrong" in Eurasia that are increasingly plausible. For example, India's energy security strategy could be affected by the collapse of fragile regimes in the Middle East, which could precipitate a political crisis in the region and interrupt the flow of energy; by an Indonesia that implodes and/or fragments, jeopardising both production levels and destabilising transportation through the Strait of Malacca and throughout Asia; by a Japan that expands its military influence into South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean, or that forms an energy alliance with China; by an Iran that dissolves into civil war; or by a China that aggressively asserts economic and/or political hegemony in Central Asia. And, of course, by a Pakistan that is either dangerously aggressive or dangerously unstable. If several of these scenarios occur simultaneously, India's energy security could be severely challenged.

The United States May Depart. India's energy security interests will be complicated by the fact that US energy interests increasingly will be focussed elsewhere. Over the next 10-15 years, it is likely that the US will be less dependent on the Middle East. Unless oil prices remain extremely low, increasingly imports from Latin America, West Africa, the North Sea and domestic US production will satisfy US energy demand. (Europe has already reduced its dependence on the Middle East dramatically.) If US strategic interests in the Middle East wane as a result, and consequently domestic political pressures to withdraw from the region mount, US military presence in the Gulf is likely to be reduced. US presence could be replaced by other Asian actors whose interests and dependence on the Middle East are rising, for example by China, whose future dependence will be paramount. Consequently, the Middle East could become a new arena of competition for Asian actors without the US there as a broker. The new actors could be faced with China as a mediator, not the US.

The United States May Increase its Presence. If you view a map of Eurasia from the standpoint of potential US interests, one feature emerges starkly: an almost total absence of allies. From Japan and Korea in North-East Asia to the Persian Gulf, the United States in fact has not a single substantial ally (Singapore bases barely qualify). Moreover, we could be looking at a world in which Japan's interests--and hence the character of the US-Japan relationship--change dramatically. If the United States wishes to pursue strategic interests seriously throughout this region--for example, protection of energy flows--it will need new allies. Yet the US government has put little effort into strengthening its relationship with the world's largest democracy, India, which also happens to be located at a critical geo-political crossroads, and it has openly sought to build a hostile relationship with Eurasia's other key player, Iran. If the United States is serious about forward presence in this region, its leaders need to engage in some focussed alliance building.

 

NOTES

1. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook, (Washington D.C., 1998).

2. According to International Energy Agency projections, the world's primary energy demand will grow at an annual rate of 2.2 per cent from approximately 8,000 million tons of oil equivalent in 1993 to approximately 11,800 million tons in 2010. During this period, Asia's primary energy demand is predicted to grow at a rate of 3.9 per cent, down from its 6-7 per cent annual growth rates before the financial crisis.

3. n. 1.

4. Fereidun Fesharaki, Sara Banaszak, and Wu King, "The Outlook for Energy Supply and Demand in Northeast Asia," in Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue V Energy Workshop Report, IGCC Policy Paper #36 February 1998.

5. n.1.

6. Ibid.

7. Fesharaki, et. al., n. 4.

8. APEC Energy Demand and Supply Outlook (Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre, updated September 1998).

9. n. 1.

10. Energy Information Administration, India: Country Analysis Brief, July 1998.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Thomas Hussain, "India Prefers LNG Over Pipelines," United Press International, October 20, 1997.