Balance of ‘Power’: The Evolution And Prospects of India’s Energy Diplomacy

On September 16, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the Shanghai Cooperation Limited (SCO) meeting at Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where he put particular weight on energy security. “The Covid pandemic and Ukraine crisis have posed severe challenges for supply chains. This has adversely impacted the food and energy security of the world. SCO should ensure that it creates reliable, resilient, and diversified supply chains,” he said while pitching for energy security.

Energy security has quickly risen to the top of the list of most pressing concerns for India, both from an economic and strategic point of view. That’s because India is the third largest consumer in the world at the moment, and it imports almost 75–80 per cent of the oil it consumes. In addition, energy consumption in India, various estimates say, is anticipated to grow at a rate ranging from 4.5 to 6.5%. Energy security is necessary to protect prices from extreme swings and guarantee reliability throughout the supply chain. It is also a hedge against the potential sanctions and reduction in supply according to new policies keeping climate change in mind.

Thus, in the first place, India needs energy security, and to achieve this, two ways, inter alia, are more critical. First, more focus on renewable energy. Second, energy-import diversification. Though it would be difficult to comment whether India is going at the right pace, it is definitely on track for this. India’s diplomats and researchers will play a decisive role in ensuring this energy security.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, India missed the target to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy, but it has set the target to generate renewable energy worth 450 GW by 2030 as a part of the national objective of energy transition, in line with India’s net zero mission by 2070. But India is not missing all the targets. As of 2021, 38% of India’s total consumed power was generated through renewable energy sources, which means that the country can achieve 40% renewable energy by 2030, as laid out in one of the original goals of the Paris agreement.

India’s diplomats are seemingly ready to take the challenge up to bring more investment and boost R&D in India for this domain. Some agreements are the results of these diplomatic efforts. In March of this year, India and Japan agreed to a clean energy partnership in renewable energy and electric vehicles, which will bilaterally benefit both countries. India and USA also decided on a Strategic Energy Partnership for Advance Clean Energy Research on smart grids and energy storage in 2020. At the same time, several MoUs were signed between the two countries for energy security. India’s lead in the International Solar Alliance is one more example to cite. Even in the last week, when Indian Foreign Minister, S Jaishankar, visited the UAE, renewable energy was in focus during the discussions.

Regarding energy import diversification, India is already diversifying the sources instead of relying on particular countries which lecture India on human rights despite having a poor track record at home. India did the civil nuclear deal with the United States of America, which can be described as the peak of energy diplomacy. In the early 2010s, India went to Africa and Latin America to explore more oil sources. In 2022, despite the pressure by the West on India not to buy oil from Russia after its recent adventure in Ukraine, India went ahead to diversify its sources. Last week, a report indicated that India wants to import oil from Brazil, Guyana, Gabon, Colombia, and Canada. In 2006-07 India obtained its crude oil from 27 countries, but in 2020-21, it did so from 42 countries, showing the diversification of sources, albeit on a smaller scale. However, the share of the Persian gulf has remained more than 60% during this time, which should be a concern for the South Block in drafting future policies.

India’s energy diplomacy is evolving, and the country is taking a solid stand to meet its energy security. However, the goal of energy diplomacy should not be reduced to achieving the present needs but to preparing India for the next two decades, where coal and oil may not be as vital as they are. India can do this without any doubt.

Harshil Mehta is an analyst who writes on international relations, diplomacy, and national issues. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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