Energy security depends on several variables. It goes beyond fuel sources and pricing. Infrastructure for energy transportation and storage are as important as energy access.
Since India’s oil dependency is high–about 70% of energy sources—it is extremely important to ensure that the supply chain is maintained to feed the energy-hungry economy.
Protection of shipping lines, a vital link in the supply chain, is becoming vital in the context of rising piracy. There are a host of complex issues within the framework of maritime laws—protocols, insurance, and so on—for the security of civilian ships that needs to be worked out. India also has to protect its ports and storage infrastructure along the coasts. Securing infrastructure up to this point in the energy supply chain is predominantly maritime-based and comes under the domains of the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and the coastal states’ police departments. Coordination among these agencies and introduction of training, equipment and technology among them are critical.
Equally important is the protection of refineries, storage facilities, electricity & transmission lines, sub-stations and other power generating facilities, and other vulnerable choke points.
Oil and gas pipelines in the hinterland, railways and road transportation systems also need to be protected from disruption.
Most of India’s oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz. With tensions building up in the Gulf, India’s dependence on Gulf oil and its vulnerability is all the more evident. The future lies not only in protecting energy infrastructure but also in making India more independent in its energy sources.
Towards that, the existing domestic energy resource base should be strengthened. Oil & gas finds, fields and basins in the North East, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Vishakapatnam, KG basin and Panna-Mukta-Tapti, to name a few, have the potential to serve as an alternate source of supply to imports coming from the Strait of Hormuz. Investing in the development of these sources will reduceIndia’s dependence on oil imports.
Simultaneously,India has to develop a solid strategy to protect its interests in the Strait of Hormuz. India’s super-power ambitions heavily depends on energy–-energy security, security of energy infrastructures, decreasing dependence on energy imports, and ensuring reliable supply from all the domestic and international sources. To ensure the uninterrupted availability of this crucial resource, the country has to safeguard all the links in its supply chain. Policy-makers can start by assessing all vulnerabilities and threats to energy security, and develop solutions. This can be complemented with policies and strategies to tap domestic resources and secure international supply through geopolitical relationships.
The writer is director-general, IPPAI