Energy security is a welcome new mantra
Mani Shankar Aiyar has already begun to redefine the role of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, leveraging on his background as a foreign service officer to morph himself into India’s ‘first oil diplomat‘.
As N Chandra Mohan writes, there are signs that the India has finally entered the ‘great game in search of long-term energy security’. The biggest deal yet is India’s $3 billion investment in Russian oil and gas fields, split about equally between Sakhalin in the Russian Far East, and Kurmangazy in the Caspian. Aiyar also successfully negotiated with the Iranians for India’s ONGC Videsh to take a stake in the Yadarevan oil fields as part of a larger deal to purchase natural gas. There are a handful of similar but smaller deals with other countries.
Pushing to take equity in foreign oil and gas fields marks the biggest shift in the manner in which India is pursuing its energy security interests. This is a step in the right direction, although Aiyar would do well to co-opt private-sector oil companies instead of championing state-owned ONGC Videsh as the vehicle pushing India’s energy interests.
But Aiyar’s enthusiasm for a Iran-India pipeline that would run across Pakistan’s breadth is misplaced — currently such a project would rightly belong in the domain of an energy insecurity policy. He would do well to keep that dream piped for now.