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West Asian politics and India’s energy security paradigm.


My paper is aimed at analysing and observing the shifts in West Asian politics and how changes in this crucial and volatile region will affect India’s aggressive push to secure its energy security framework. I am currently in my first week of working on this paper and am still ironing out my topic and the ways in which I would like to approach it with.

My background: I am primarily a journalist. You can read me in The Sunday Guardian, Tehelka and The New York Times regularly. I also write on India and its neighbours for Swedish and Norwegian publications from time to time. Prior to this, I spent 2 years working as a researcher and analyst for a European geo-political risk assessment company.

Following is a brief for my paper. All comments most welcomed and I will be tweaking the brief in the days to come.

Early last year, an obscure memo from Kuwait reached the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, voicing the country’s displeasure of India’s new energy investments in Israel. Kuwait maintains no diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. Some suggested that Saudi Arabia, the largest exporter of oil to India, had prodded Kuwait to make this statement against Israel on its behalf to India.

Today, India imports more than 83% of its crude requirements. The top two suppliers at the moment are Saudi Arabia and Iraq. However, India has decided to engage with any country which is providing energy assets around the world, irrespective of global conditions or geo-political constrains of its suppliers. This has seen Indian projects spring up everywhere from African states such as Sudan to oil rich Latin American states such as Venezuela.

Considering this stance, India’s balance of relations in west Asia is going to be crucial to its energy security, which is the major driving force of the 21st century Indian foreign policy, other than the country’s immediate neighbourhood.  With the Foreign Ministry now applying a separate and dedicated position for energy security within its ranks, the seriousness of India’s energy crisis and recognition of the fact that much of India’s energy needs will be met via imports will push every government which rules New Delhi towards a common long-term foreign policy goal.

The importance of Indian – west Asian balance can be seen in the cracks developing between India and its historical ally, Iran, over energy trade between the two states in midst of heavy sanctions on the former by the US and the European Union. With problems within the region between Iran and Israel, Saudi Arabia’s massive yet largely covert influence on the entire region, Iraq’s rise as an energy giant, Qatar’s money influence reaching every corner of the region and the on-going tensions in Lebanon, Egypt and so on pose big challenges for India. This fact has largely been recognised within the Ministry of External Affairs as well.

Each of these areas in west Asia also carries unique security and political baggage. While politics of Iran is a world’s away from that of the Arab World driven by Saudi Arabia, the US influence on the region adds and subtracts crucial trends on how countries behave with each other, including within the Arab world. On the security part, nuclearisation of Iran, Saudi’s access to nuclear weapons of Pakistan and Israel’s hidden nuclear agendas add dynamically to the region’s political, economic and security discourse. Using all these issues, every country in the region that India deals with for its own economic and strategic security comes with its own set of challenges.

For my research, I would like to answer the question “How will west Asia’s politics play a role in India’s long-term energy security policy plans?” I would like to study how India can balance its relationship between all its energy interest partners in the west Asian region with giving specific emphasis on Indian diplomacy between the Arab world, Iran and Israel, with all three, for various reasons going beyond energy in some cases, being important to India’s current and future economic and security interests.

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