Energy, a basic denominator of growth and development, as the driver of the economy, is a major strategy determinant in the contemporary world with increasingly pertinent security concerns. This begs the question that energy is the hub on which geopolitics works on. The debate that ensues involves geo-politics, geo-economics and geo-strategy. Energy-driven contentions that determine the global architecture of strategy and security today look further on with deeper intent at the future also. When the producer states, the transit states and the market states are involved in calling the shots with varying weight-ages, leverages also vary.
In the context of the ever-changing global scenario, growing security, strategy, and energy concerns, the International Conference on “Energy and Strategy-The Contemporary Asia” was jointly organized by the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian studies, Kolkata and the Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, University of Calcutta. This volume edited by Sreemati Ganguli is based mostly on papers presented in the seminar, and a number of specially commissioned contributory articles, which look into energy as an overall component of international concern.
Home to two of the world’s fastest growing, energy-hungry, energy-guzzling economies — China and India, three of the world’s energy producing conclaves, — the established West Asia, the developing Central Asia and the prospective South China Sea, the major transit channels of Indian Ocean and overland Asia, the energy chain in Asia holds the key to the “global energy balance”. Strategising energy is not just “energy policy or energy diplomacy”; it comprehensively involves balancing the competition and cooperation in production, marketing and transport.
Divided into five sections, this collection looks at energy as a security concern and energy as an axle of alliance and negotiation. Each section concentrates on a region and looks into its energy situation as a producer, a supplier, a transit facilitator, a consumer.
A short opening piece by Bikash Sinha sets the tone on the need to look at energy as a sustainer that helps human civilisation to flourish in the context of sustainability.
Sudha Mahalingam’s analysis of India’s energy security challenges concludes that the inherent fault lines in the system, “the blinkered emphasis on growth, without heed to the energy intensity of the growth model”, have to be dealt with through coordination among the various ministries and departments and with effective institutional mechanisms. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Aditi Roy Ghatak have expounded on the availability and scope of exploitation of and the demand-supply situation in the energy sector. A K Vashdev writes on the role and scope of Oil India Videsh in advanced and sustained exploration outside the Indian milieu. Amit Singh examines the India’s energy security and the South China Sea with a maritime perspective of “cooperation and capacity building between India and the Southeast Asian countries. The impact of climate change and energy resources in South Asia as a tool of prompting interdependence amongst nations against its inherent disadvantages forms the basis of Sahana Bose’s contribution.
The strategic significance of West Asian energy resources has been very skilfully dealt with by Girijesh Pant who looks at a restructuring option that can transform it from a supplier of growth imperatives to a participant in the Asian growth story. Hooman Peimani looks at the potentially vulnerable Persian Gulf, with factors such as political, social, economic, environmental and military security as a massive energy resource with the world’s “single largest oil and gas reserves”, which will continue being in business “even after all other regions would have run out of oil and gas”, as a crucial player in the global energy markets.
In the context of the Eurasian strategic sphere of energy, Arpita Basu Roy studies the security and political situation in Afghanistan and observes that “Afghanistan clearly has the strategic advantages of an energy corridor” for South Asia where stability in the country is the key counterpoint. Hari Vasudevan’s contention that Russia’s hydrocarbon industry needs a relook and restructuring is very elucidating. Michael Fredholm explores Russia’s energy relationships with Europe, Central Asia and China, where he concludes “it is all too easy to confuse short-term tactical gains with long-term strategic goals and strategies of energy and security should be based on lessons learnt from the past and projections for the future”.
China’s energy strategy in the neighbourhood is multi-layered. Swaran Singh looks at China’s energy diplomacy across Central Asia, West Asia and Africa as an “indomitable influence as an aspiring partner with the developed world but also as a spokesman for the least developed and developing countries”. Marlene Laruelle and Sebastien Peyrouse examine China’s resource diplomacy in Central Asia of subtly weaning them away from the Russian markets. Lim Tai Wei looks at the North-East Asian energy potential and its impact vis-a-vis U.S, Russia and India. Cooperation and coexistence hold the key to the regional energy initiatives.
Indian Ocean as the key strategic energy supply route compels K K Agnihotri to look at the safety and security potential of the trade and energy supplies in the context of its vastly variegated degrees of economic and social development, governance capacities, political variations and security potentials. Euan Graham looks at securing the sea lines of communication through the geopolitical lens. Being central to global energy security, influencing strategy dynamics among major global energy consumers, this calls for the stakeholders to strategise dimensions within itself in conjunction with forces outside the Indian Ocean region.
A comprehensive overview, topical and relevant, with scientists, strategists, journalists, historians, academicians and government practitioners as contributors, this book is voluminous in content, precise in form, succinct in presentation and objective in perception. While the many issues of energy as a tool, means, and end are dealt with impartially, it projects a scenario that is realistic and calls for attention.