Dialogue  April-June, 2005, Volume 6  No. 4

Energy Security Cooperation and Geo-politics

Dr. Akhilesh Chandra Prabhakar


From Africa to Indonesia via West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, South East Asia, has been of vital interests to the North America. Situated at this junction of three continents-namely, Asia, Africa and Europe, provides linkage over land and across sea between Europe and Indian Sub-continent on the one side and Africa and India on the other side. It offers shortest and cheapest trade and transit routes between the West and the East. It commands vast reservoir of oil, about 60 per cent of the world’s proven reserves of oil, which enormously contributes to the affluence of the United States.

Energy security is the emerging vital issue today. Oil and gas continue to play a preeminent role in meeting the energy requirements of the world. World energy demand (as primary fuel) has grown by nearly 95 percent during the last 30 years and is likely to grow by over 52 percent during the next two decades. The demand for natural gas is expected to grow by as much as 97 percent with demand for oil increasing by over 42 percent.1

Asia as a whole will be the world’s largest energy consumer by the end of this decade. Asian dependence on oil imports is expected to rise to approximately 77 percent by 2010.

India is the sixth largest oil consumer in the world, and third largest oil consumer in Asia. India received 70 percent of the crude

*Formerly Research Scholar, Centre for West Asian and African Studies, School of International Studies, J.N.U.; presently Asstt. Professor, Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Economics, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.

oil by imports and more than 65 percent of the same comes from the Gulf region. India accounted for 12.5% of total primary energy consumption in the Asia-Pacific region and 3% of world primary energy consumption.

The current primary energy utilization mix, for the commercial sources, in India is as follows: coal approximately 50%; oil 32%; gas 15%; hydel 2% and nuclear 1%. India’s oil reserves amount to 5.9 billion barrels (0.5% of global reserves) with total proven, probable, and possible reserves of close to 11 billion barrels. The future consumption will have to be necessarily met by imports as the demand for oil is expected to be 3.2 million bbl/d by 2010. The gas consumption too is growing and is likely to be 1.2 Tcf in 2005 and 1.6 Tcf in 2010 compared to 0.8 Tcf in 2000.2

India’s proven reserve of crude oil is 732 million metric tonnes. The production is around 33 million tonnes but the demand is around 107 million tonnes. The proven natural gas reserve is 763 billion cubic meters. India has 30 billion tonnes of unexplored hydrocarbon reserves. India’s dependence on oil imports will grow to 91.6 percent by the year 2020. The production is 86 million metric standard cubic metre per day. While the demand is 115 million metric standard cubic metre per day. The demand for crude oil will be 190 million tonnes by 2011-12, which will result in 81 per cent import dependence. With respect to natural gas, the demand will rise to 313 million metric standard cubic metre per day in 2010-12. And though the Reliance Industries has discovered gas reserves in the Krishna-Godavari basin, which has a capacity of 7 trillion cubic feet, and the ONGC has also discovered gas reserves in Rajasthan, it would take at least 3 to 5 years to reach the consumers by which time the demand for natural gas would have increased to over 151 million metric standard cubic metre per day.

The current demand is only 8 per cent of the world average, which is likely to increase to 20 per cent by 2025 due to fuel substitution.

The offshore Cauvery, Krishna Godavari and Mahanadi basin in the Bay of Bengal held promise while on the west coast, the Kerela-Konkan basin and Kutch offshore in Gujarat, was also promising international firms to explore for oil and gas. India is scouting for oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Australia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Senegal, Nigeria, Sudan, Angola, and West Africa. With 0.523 billion cubic metres of gas from a Vietnam gas field, it is expected to get about 5 million tones from Russia’s Sakhalin field when it goes on stream next year.

Taking into account the demand-supply matrix, the three Asian players will be actively pursuing their interest in the Gulf, Caspian Basin, Africa and Venezuela in Latin America. In the changing context where hydrocarbon despite being strategic commodity is moving to the arena of market to be traded as “just another commodity” the pressure of market seems to be prevailing in defining the parameter of emerging regime. One plausible scenario could be “Asia’s tremendous expansion of energy demand over the next two decades will force key regional power such as India and China to accept for greater levels of cross-border energy dependency. Whether their search will enhance the intensity to competition and conflict could be an issue of debate.

In the mainstream discussion on energy security management a neglected dimension is the organization of business and corporate strategy. The government played an important role in the past in creating large corporate entities with global size and competence in the energy sector.

The public sector energy companies should not become victims from private sectors. The requirements of energy security as well as of national interest suggest that public sector oil and gas companies should be strengthened, made autonomous and free of political interference and bureaucratic delays in their regular functioning. Excessive bureaucracy has prevented companies like Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and the Petroleum Companies from playing a more effective role at the global level. Opportunities to invest abroad, to acquire oil equity and to undertake projects at home have been missed due to a range of political and administrative constraints on the functioning of these companies. Even as India develops large private sector companies in the oil and gas sector, as it should, it must strengthen existing public sector companies so that Indian corporate are able to compete more effectively with Western Multinationals.

Exxon’s plans to “dominate the new age of oil exploration.”3 “There is no question that Exxon’s insistence on doing things its way breads conflict almost everywhere it goes. But this is one American company capable of a continuity of approach and a tenacity of purpose that makes even the institutions of government seem transitory by comparison.”

India is capable of building its own oil and gas multinationals, as indeed China has been trying to. In defining our strategy for energy security, it is important that we pay adequate attention to this dimension of industrial and corporate policy, often neglected in the discussion on the issue.

Second, Geo-politics of energy has had a major influence on world events during the 20th century and continues to do so even in the 21st century.

The wild aggressiveness of US imperialists for world domination, the frequent military interventions in various countries and regions that are of strategic importance to US interests. They used as instruments to facilitate the imperialist power in their unjust wars to occupy countries and regions and to impose complete imperialist domination. The US uses these military bases to make the hosting countries economically, politically and military dependent, lead them, through the local bourgeoisie to greater subjugation and blackmails them to act as “willing” participants in the US plans.

After September 11th the US has intensified its military presence and installed new military bases within regions considered as strategic, such as Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Central and Western Asia. It should be noted that US’ military bases are more than 786 in the 150 countries. The installation of US military bases and their military presence in the hosting countries create the reactionary political conditions that strengthen the rule of the most reactionary regimes in order to continue to implement anti-people, anti-workers policies.

The Bush administration’s approach to the philosophy of Admiral Mahan, the 19th-century military strategist who advocated the use of military power to create a global American empire. “They want to be the world’s enforcer,” he says. “It’s a worldview, a geo-political position. They say, ‘we need hegemony in the world.”4

For the past 30 years, the Gulf has been in the crosshairs of an influential group of Washington foreign policy strategists, who believe that in order to ensure its global dominance, the United States must seize control of the region and its oil. In the geopolitical vision driving current U.S. policy toward Iraq, the key to national security is global hegemony dominance over any and all potential rivals. To that end, the United States must not only be able to project its military forces anywhere, at any time, it must also control key resources, chief among them oil-and especially Gulf oil. To the hawks who now set the tone at the White House and the Pentagon, the region is crucial not simply for its share of the U.S. oil supply (other sources have become more important over the years), but because it would allow the United States to maintain a lock on the world’s energy lifeline and potentially deny access to its global competitors. The American administration “believes you have to control resources in order to have access to them,” says Chas Freeman, who served as U.S ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush. “They are taken with the idea that the end of the Cold War left the United States able to impose its will globally- and that those who have the ability to shape events with power have the duty to do so.

Through a well planned military action, the Gulf war has ultimately ensured full US control over the oil wealth of the region- a so called strategic-cum-economic compulsion as argued by former president Richard Nixon. He said:” The West has a vital interest in maintaining access to Persian Gulf oil. As Europe depends on the Gulf, for over 75 per cent of its oil, Japan for over 90 per cent, while the United States receives only 6 per cent of its oil from the region, the ripple effect of an oil cut-off from the Persian Gulf would be fatal to the industries of Western Europe and Japan. As long as the West remains so dependent on Gulf oil, we must maintain the capability to defend our friends in the Persian Gulf.”

The military-industrial and Texas nexus traders, have estimated around $1 trillion, is spent every year, on weapons and preparations for war. Third World was the arena of 138 wars that were waged between, especially small arms, left over from this era is a key factor in many conflicts now scarring the world. The vital interests of the oil importing powers, have resulted in a state of conflict and tension in the Middle-east, Central Asia, and Africa. This conflict has been assuming different profiles throughout the period of cold war and is continuing to date. It is this vested interest due to which various strategies have been implemented to enable economic, political and military influences over the oil producing region.

The Afghanistan war has already given the USA a pretext to get hold of the Central Asian and Caspian Sea Oil producing regions, amounting to 26 per cent of the world reserves and making it harder for China to access them without American cooperation. US troops have been positioned in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to protect the oil routes. Military instructors have been deployed in Georgia, host to a key segment of the pipeline connecting the Caspian Sea with the Black Sea and Mediterranean. As it is the 1,500 km pipeline, stretching from Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oil field to Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossysk, carried 14.78 mn tons (295,000 b/d) of crude for export during 2003. In the longer term, the American objective is to make sure that Russian oil is directed to the West and not towards Asia while encircling China within a network of alliances with Russia, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

“Controlling Iraq is about oil as power, rather than oil as fuel,” says Michael Klare, Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College and author of Resource Wars. “Control over the Persian Gulf translates into control over Europe, Japan, and China. It’s having our hand on the spigot.”5 According to that strategy, taking control of Iraq’s oil while plotting to seize Iran’s is tantamount to acquiring the means of tightening the energy noose around China, thus discouraging Beijing’s temptation to challenge American supremacy in the future. That is a major card to make the twenty-first century an American-dominated one.

Third, there is the question of pipelines corridor game, which substantially determine which way the oil flows and who immediately, benefits from it. For example, the Caspian Basin during the Soviet period had pipelines going only toward Russia and part of the US design there is to change the direction of this flow. The US would like to build pipelines through Afghanistan toward the Arabian Sea, keeping Russia as well as Europe out of these supply routes, but the problem is that Afghanistan is landlocked and the pipelines in this direction must then pass through Iran (the shortest route) or Pakistan, neither of which the US currently finds reliable. The US prefers the building of a system of oil-and –gas lines starting through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, then running under the Caspian Sea to Baku, then through Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean.

This would keep Russia out but would facilitate supplies to Europe. The main point in any case is that the direction of pipelines is of great geo-political importance. For example, under a different dispensation of global power, pipelines could conceivably be constructed from the Caspian Basin to the Chinese provines of Xinjiang, which China would like to develop ‘industrially.’ Those same pipelines could conceivably be extended across China to take oil and gas to its coastal regions and then, beyond that, to Japan. The construction of such pipelines would be very expensive but, as a result, China and Japan could be substantially free of US domination over their supplies. The US would never allow that because such possibilities feed into one of its two worst nightmares, namely that Chinese and Japanese interest would one day converge and, together, they would lead a vast zone of industrialized countries of East and Southeast Asia in a bloc that could outdo the US itself within a foreseeable future.

What should South do?

India has called for inter-regional cooperation for investment in exploration and strategic storage of hydrocarbons for energy security. The conference was held in New Delhi on January 5, 2005.

The oil producing countries assured that the supply would be maintained and said they had enough reserves and capacities to meet the demand. The consuming countries wanted creation of storing capacities and an emergency mechanism to guard against disruption of supply.

India has proposed a pan-Asian gas grid for tapping the hydrocarbon potential aimed at promoting investment in infrastructure and boost energy security in the region. With 55% of known global gas reserves being in Asia, the region also had the greatest demand for gas. The need for Asian countries to create the forum and leverage the power of offshore and onshore gas from Iran in the west, Myanmar in the east and Central Asia in the north.

It needs to convert the relationship between buyers and sellers into a community of partners to have a common approach to development of gas.

The Russian Federation, can play a critical role in ensuring India’s energy security. Russia has promised India equity in a Siberian oil field that is equivalent to 4 to 5 million tones of crude oil annually. Presenting a road show for India’s 2005, oil and gas exploration round on Feb.21st, of this last month India urged Russian companies to heavily invest in India and to jointly build an Asian oil and gas community that would be stronger than the European Union. The British had been telling India for 150 years that it had no oil, but then Russians came and helped India find oil and build its production from zero to 33 million tones a year.

Iran stating that it will set up a task force to study demands by India and Pakistan seeking more gas than the earlier demand of 75 million metric standard cubic metres per day. The total consumption in Asia almost equaled its production, unlike North America, and Europe, and still the region did not have a developed oil market. Oil producing countries of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar and major consuming countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and India took part. Iran favoured establishment – of an Asian Bank for Energy Development for financing energy projects in Asia and said price of energy supplies from Asian producers to consumers in the region should be lower than that of others. Referring to the need of the growing economies of Asia, particularly China, and India, the Iranian Oil Minister, said that Asian countries were in need of a long-term energy supply security. India would invest $1580 billion in 25 years in Asia for energy production. India has tied up with Iran for supply of 7.5 million tones annually of liquefied natural gas for 25 years as part of the bilateral cooperation. Under the agreement, Iran will supply the LNG at $1.2 plus $0.0625 of Brent per million British thermal unit (mBtu). State-run Indian Oil Corporation and Iranian firm Petropars’s planned to set up LNG liquefaction facilities with a capacity of nine million tones annually. The project is estimated to cost $3.2 billion.

China is pushing to have greater access to Russia’s oil fields, it can play a direct part in exploiting its neighbor’s estimated 120 billion barrels of known oil reserves. Last year, China’s total oil demand grew about 15 percent, to 5.8 million barrels. Russia may also invite China to build a pipeline to branch off the new Siberianline, which will come to within 60 kilometers of the Russia-Chinese border. Russia has also promised to increase rail shipments of oil to China. China has been looking to Russia to help satisfy its rocketing demand for oil and natural gas.

Japan had lobbied for the terminus to be at the Pacific port of Nakhodka to ensure its access to the oil without possible Chinese interference, and offered $5 billion towards the cost of the pipeline as an incentive. The Russian government’s disposal of Yukos assets has been challenged in a US court, and the Putin administration may want to draw in China, and possibly India, as cards to use against American governments.

Bangladesh has proposed regional energy sector cooperation on January 12, 2005 with India and Myanmar on the proposed trans-boundary gas pipeline. Dhaka’s proposal at the Yangon meeting would also include passage through Indian territories to import electricity from Nepal and Bhutan in exchange from allowing the tri-national gas pipeline through Bangladesh territory. The proposed gas pipeline will transmit gas from Myanmar to Tripura, from where gas will join the pipeline flow and continue on to eastern Bangladesh, existing in western Bangladesh through the Jessore border and ending in West Bengal.

India has long-standing ties with African countries. In Sudan, oil and gas companies will rush into expand production from the 345,000 barrels a day recorded in June 2004. The country has proven reserves of 635 million barrels. The largest lease holders include China National Petroleum, Petronas of Malaysia, ONGC-Videsh of India and Sudan’s Sudapet. US oil companies have recently begun to show interest in Sudan’s underdeveloped oil fields.

With 20 percent of its oil imports coming from Nigeria, its crude oil is best suited for India’s refineries and hence remains one of India’s most valued sources of energy. Nigeria is invited to join for production with 51 percent share holder partner in Port Harcort Veri and Kunduna refineries, as these refineries are producing 1.50 million barrels and 1.40 million barrels perday.

The most potent development is Egypt inviting India to join it for a proposed pipeline, being billed as the Suez of oil. Together with the Blue Stream oil transportation project, the Egyptian pipeline can actually bring the Caspian oil and gas to India’s doorsteps.

Angola has blocked India’s 50 percent equity partnership in production of Block 18 that could have given India five million tones of crude oil from 2008.

The foreign office and ONGC-Videsh are currently working out a “customized” political-economic package for Angola. The Angolan oil company, Sonangol, might tilt towards China because of a $ 2 billion aid package by Beijing. India had indicated that it would give development assistance of $ 20 million spread over two years, main power training, railways rehabilitation project etc. Sonangol exercised its first right of refusal with Shell, it is an American company, pre-empting its bid to sell its 50 per cent of the 10- million tonne per annum offshore Block 18 to ONGC. China has pledged $12.5 billion for four oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia and Russia, apart from acquiring oil concessions for over $8 billion in Sudan, Venezuela, Iraq and Kazakhstan. The 48th ESCAP session held in Beijing in April 1992 endorsed the study of the southern corridor of the Trans-Asian railway, one of the three Asia-Europe rail-land bridges.

As an energy cooperation agreement between India and Venezuela for joint production of oil and supply of petroleum on a long-term basis on March 5th, 2005 in New Delhi, Indian companies will operate by themselves or in alliance with PDVSA (the state oil company).

Venezuela is the 5th oil producer in the world. Venezuela has the largest gas deposits in Latin America-120 trillion cubic metres of proven reserves. As in a reference to Venezuela heavy crudes such as orimulsion, that India too had heavy crudes and that PDVSA, which has developed technologies to exploit this crude, was willing to extend its help. Venezuela also had technology to convert crude oil underground, obviating the need for certain types of refining. The energy cooperation agreement with India will extend to pacts for exploitation of India’s heavy crude oil as “Venezuela have the right technology for converting heavy oils into light crude for use in refineries.” Venezuela was competent to meet India’s import requirement of 100 million barrels of crude. One of these agreements is to lead ONGC Videsh picking up a 49 per cent stake in a Venezuelan oil field. Indian and Venezuelan companies were also developing the Baghewala oil field in Rajasthan. Venezuelan oil experts would shortly visit different parts of India-notably Rajasthan, believed to be rich in hydrocarban deposits- to help carry out larger and more sophisticated exploration programmes which, if successful, would enable the country to cut down on its crude imports.

The Third World countries must be united. Asian, African and Latin American countries, should be emerge as the strongest force under the spirit of South-South cooperation.


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     1.   See, Singh Jasjit (2001), “Oil And Gas in India’s Security,” published by Knowledge World, New Delhi, pp-10-29.

     2.   See, Girijesh Pant, paper presented in two days seminar on “India’s Energy Security and the Gulf”, at School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, March 19-20, 2004.

     3.   Business Week, April 9, 2001

     4.   See Robert Dreyfuss., ‘Telling Truth: The Thirty Year Itch,’ published in Peace Now: The Bulletin of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, Vol. 2: Issue 1, 2004, pp-17-21.

  5.        See Robert Dreyfuss., ‘Telling Truth: The Thirty Year Itch,’ published in Peace Now: The Bulletin of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, Vol. 2: Issue 1, 2004, pp-17-21.

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