Energy and Security in South Asia

Energy and Security in South Asia: Cooperation or Conflict?

Charles K. Ebinger
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 224
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    Energy and Security in South Asia
    Book Description:

    Economic growth and burgeoning populations have put South Asia's energy security in a perilous state. Already energy and power shortages are stunting development in some of the region's least developed locations spurring political insurgences and social dislocation. Should this trend continue, Ebinger argues the Subcontinent will face dire economic, social and political crises. InEnergy and Security in South Asia, Brookings ESI director Charles Ebinger, a long-time adviser to South Asian governments, lays out the current regional energy picture arguing that the only way to achieve sustainable energy security is through regional collaboration both within the subcontinent as well as with regional neighbors in the Middle East and Central and Southeast Asia,

    Dr. Ebinger commences by illustrating the present-day energy environment in each nation as well as the obstacles governments confront in addressing them. Among the issues examined are: (1) the technical strains that near double-digit economic growth are putting on India's dilapidated power infrastructure, (2) the economic costs the country is incurring by increasing reliance on the Middle East for oil and gas resources; (3) the prospects for expanded wind, solar, energy efficiency and nuclear power generation in India to help reduce the nation's growing carbon footprint as it accelerates the use of coal; (4) the implications of Pakistan's expanded use of coal; (5) an analysis of how poor energy pricing systems are bringing about an energy shortage throughout the region (6) an examination of how strains in Indo/Bengali relations threaten the construction of vital regional energy infrastructure projects; (7) a discussion of how continued political upheaval in Nepal is causing power shortages of up to 20 hours per day; and (8), an analysis of how hydropower development is fuelling Bhutan's "Gross National Happiness" campaign. In addition to individual domestic concerns, each nation shares a crisis whereby hundreds of millions on the Subcontinent lack access to electricity and burn inefficient resources such as fuel wood and biomass for lighting, heating, and cooking, thus contributing sizeable carbon emissions.

    Ebinger then details the need for regional energy cooperation, both within and outside the Subcontinent. Regarding intra-regional collaboration, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh all have an unrealized opportunity for generating income by exporting their vast hydropower resources to a power-starved India. In addition, Bangladesh and India are yet to come to agreements on gas trade and other vital bilateral energy projects. Outside the subcontinent, a plethora of pipelines have been proposed to ease the Subcontinent's fossil fuel resource thirst. Ebinger examines the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, Oman-India subsea pipeline, and the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India pipeline arguing that all these projects offer promises for energy security; however, each has been plagued with political, economic, or security obstacles that have prevented tangible progress.

    In that light, the third section highlights the geopolitical concerns facing the region's energy security, from the Pakistan-India relationship - and how it relates to energy security, and the developing India-China rivalry for foreign energy resources. China, seen as a competitor to India for Asian economic preeminence, is facing its own energy resource glut.

    The looming Indian Subcontinent energy crisis will force more than half a billion people - and counting - from emerging from dire poverty, thus potentially sparking domestic and regional instability in an already treacherous area.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0431-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Charles K. Ebinger
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Policy Prescriptions
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  6. 1 Introduction to a Region on Edge
    (pp. 1-14)

    In December 1985, the heads of state of Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka met in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and adopted the Dhaka Declaration, establishing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). While informal proposals for South Asian regional collaboration can be traced back to discussions in 1947 at the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi, concrete proposals toward formalizing such cooperation gathered momentum only in the late 1970s under the leadership of the president of Bangladesh, Ziaur Rahman.¹ Despite initial skepticism from the governments of Pakistan and India—both of which thought that the initiative...

  7. 2 India
    (pp. 15-60)

    It is no secret that India has enjoyed vigorous economic growth over the past decade. However, as Surya Sethi, a former principal adviser to India’s National Planning Commission, points out, “no matter what one says about [India]; exactly the opposite is true for a large section of her population.”¹ In spite of being the fifth-largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world, the country’s per capita primary energy consumption is only 24 percent of the world average consumption, 5 percent of U.S. consumption, and 27 percent of Chinese consumption.² Economic growth has led to burgeoning energy demand because a newly...

  8. 3 Pakistan
    (pp. 61-87)

    Energy security, as defined in chapter 1, is a lofty target for a country as unstable as Pakistan. Since its separation from India in 1947, Pakistan’s ability to provide good governance—that is, a stable, transparent, and effective government—has deteriorated steadily over the years, as has the government’s ability to provide even basic social services. Today, the country faces a polarized political system, overbearing military and intelligence services, and an absence of clear civilian authority. A burgeoning population, exploding urbanization, and devastatingly high unemployment (especially among young people) only make good governance more difficult.¹ In few areas is this...

  9. 4 Bangladesh
    (pp. 88-103)

    Bangladesh provides a cautionary tale for the energy future of South Asia. It is perilously vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it is surrounded by historically less-than-cordial neighbors, and it suffers from a chronic energy shortage despite having significant hydrocarbon resources within its borders. Bangladesh, a country of 162 million people, faces a dangerous energy security predicament. The country is heavily—and increasingly—dependent on natural gas, which in 2008 accounted for around 89 percent of its power generation and over 75 percent of its commercial energy supply (up from 61 percent in 1994).¹ However, the country’s gas production...

  10. 5 Nepal and Bhutan
    (pp. 104-125)

    Nepal and Bhutan have different stories to tell about energy security and economic development in South Asia. Blessed with rivers that rampage through the Himalayas offering potential for hydropower generation, the two new democracies of South Asia (both Nepal and Bhutan are shaking monarchic legacies) have an opportunity to provide ample electricity for their citizens and export the remainder to electricity-hungry markets in India and Bangladesh. However, while Bhutan has fully exploited that opportunity and generates significant economic growth from hydropower development and export, Nepal’s energy sector languishes, constrained by poor governance, corruption, domestic insurgencies, and an immobile government. For...

  11. 6 Energy Challenges in the Regional Context
    (pp. 126-141)

    As detailed in earlier chapters, regional disputes and rivalries must be set aside if progress is to be made toward achieving energy security in South Asia. No country on the Indian subcontinent can afford the domestic societal discord or the damage to economic prosperity that may result from failure to address the current energy challenges. The December 2010–January 2011 riots in Pakistan were caused, in part, by proposed increases in petroleum prices as well as by escalating frustration over electricity load shedding. While political movements, insurgencies, or demonstrations may be political or religious in origin, energy and power shortages...

  12. 7 Regional Cooperation
    (pp. 142-171)

    A call for serious dialogue on energy cooperation in South Asia is long overdue. Domestic reforms may help bridge imbalances in the supply and demand for energy in the short term, but if the countries of the region are to achieve long-term energy security, they must engage in multilateral and bilateral cooperation.

    Calls for intra- and interregional cooperation are not new. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was pitched as being a group for regional cooperation more than two decades ago, and countries around the region engage in regional energy trade, albeit in limited volumes. However, the full...

  13. 8 South Asia’s Path Forward
    (pp. 172-182)

    There is a wide range of explanations for the failure of successive South Asian governments to provide basic energy and economic services to the majority of their people. As chapters 2 through 5 demonstrate, many of the explanations can be found in the political philosophies, structure, and policies of the region’s governments, as institutional rivalries and inefficiencies, populist economic policies, and statist political ideologies perpetuate autarchic and short-sighted energy planning.

    Examples of disconnected policy formulation abound. In both India and Pakistan, nuclear energy authorities conduct their supply and demand projections outside the purview of broader electricity planning and even report...

  14. APPENDIX Origins of the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal
    (pp. 183-188)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 189-214)
  16. Index
    (pp. 215-224)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-226)