War and Oil - The Pipeline Politics
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Issue Vol 24.2 Apr-Jun2009 | Date : 16 Feb , 2012

Indian Consumption

At present India’s requirement is two million barrels per day, but by 2025 this will quadruple, compounded by the fact that it has less then one percent of the world’s reserves. 70 percent of India’s crude is imported and all of it comes by sea. It is expected to be the largest importer of oil by 2050 and its oil consumption is expected to rise to 150 million tons by 2020. India’s gas requirement by 2024 is said to be 125 billion cubic meters. Of this 52 BCM will be available locally and balance 75 BCM will be imported.

Oil as Source of Present Veiled and Future Conflict

The 1991 Gulf war was dictated more by considerations of protecting the oil resources of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia rather than any other concerns. US led invasion of Iraq in 2003 too had the same aim, as Iraq, besides having huge oil reserves, also, dominated the oil routes in this region. Among other reasons, the US intervention in Afghanistan is with an eye to gaining access to the new sources of oil in the Central Asian Region.

Search for WMD in Iraq was just a ruse, and the witch hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, has only led to the creation of more jihadis and has divided the world on religious lines as never before. Apart from ‘war against terror’, it is quite obvious that the US presence in Afghanistan has as much to do with securing the country so that safe transit routes for the oil and gas supplies of the region, can be established. Also, the US is attempting to carve a geopolitical role in an area where China and Russia exercise great infulence.

Analysts have proposed that Indian strategic petroleum reserve should also encompass a regional facility in cooperation with Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This would not only tie the economies of these smaller countries with India but also confirm Indian centrality in South Asia.

War and Oil

Availability, holding and transportation of oil has proved to be a decisive factor in the outcome of all wars. Rommel’s Africa Korps was grounded because the much needed oil could not be transported across the Mediterranean to reach him in time. Patton’s decisive thrust in the winter of 1944 cold not see the light of day because of shortage of oil. Gulf War I did not start till adequate reserves of oil were built up. In 2003, the US Army thrust on Iraq was held up for three days on the outskirts of Baghdad. India, painstakingly built up its oil reserves before embarking on the liberation of Bangladesh.

Oil fields as War Target

Oil moves the Army. But the oil fields are the target of those armies which are not in possession of one. Strategic Forces/Special Forces aim to capture oil depots and fields in fact for subsequent use by its armies. The Caucasian oil fields were a prime strategic target for German invasion of Russia during the Second World War. The terrorists in Iraq, Chechnya and Afghanistan target the pipelines and depots in a sustained manner.

translate into higher prices everywhere. ThereforeEnergy Security in the Indian Context

India faces daunting challenges in meeting its energy needs. The key challenges are:-

  • Exploration. Search and tap domestic coal, gas and oil reserves. No major oil fields have been discovered in the country since the Bombay High fields in the late 1960s. Gas discoveries are more promising with the discovery of gas fields in the Krishna–Godavri basin and the Bay of Bengal.
  • Uranium. Low concentration of uranium in India and the poor quality of uranium ores, imply that India will be dependent on imported uranium in the medium term before its three stage nuclear program fructifies and the country is able to tap its vast thorium reserves.
  • Alternative Sources of Energy. R&D in alternate sources of energy like ground and solar energy to make it commercially viable and in a position to replace hydrocarbons to a significant level.
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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Rohit Singh

Rohit Singh is a Research Assistant at the Center for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS)

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