That gas pipeline again

Except the Indian government’s attitude, nothing has changed

India’s new petroleum minister (and former closet Communist) Mani Shankar Aiyar approves of the idea of a terrestrial pipeline that connects Iran’s gas-fields to India’s energy hungry economy, never mind that for the most part this pipeline will run across Pakistan and its troubled tribal areas. Aiyar’s petroleum ministry argues that this pipeline will be a cheaper alternative – but that’s because of half-baked costing methodologies that do not take into account the risk premium. And that is if guarantee given by the Pakistani government is worth the paper its written on.

There are very good reasons why the pipeline is an idea whose time has not come – not least because Musharraf holds that Kashmir issue is a central one and ‘in Pakistan’s collective blood’.

There are already schools of thought which incorrectly claim that India’s economic development is hostage to relations with Pakistan. Putting a vital strategic resource under the tender, loving care of the Pakistani army may well prove them right.

The naive petroleum ministry bureaucrat gloats that India can cut off Pakistan’s water supply if it were to turn off the gas. That idea is absurd. India has not violated the Indus Waters’ Treaty in spite of wars and countless provocations. If India has to stoop to such disgraceful levels to protect the pipeline, why build it in the first place?

Mani Shankar Aiyar may like to have his cojones in hostile hands. But he should not subject India’s national interests to unnecessary masochism.

Tailpiece

India’s National Security Council is putting some serious thought into energy security, according to M K Narayanan, the prime minister’s internal security advisor.

Take energy for instance. Suppose India’s energy reserves get substantially depleted and we have to fight a war. What would you do? This is not something that the CCS will look at. And there is no question about it: some of the most outstanding thinkers are on this NSC. Its Secretariat needs some upgradation, which has not happened in the past. Maybe some consultants and thinkers who can handle issues like this will have to come in. [IE]

The cabinet should wait until the National Security Council makes up its mind on energy security.

Related Link: A Pakistani view on the pipeline

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