Event ReportsPublished on May 01, 2013
The US Congressional Staff was pointed out that though Pakistan's political machinery is willing to work with all parties, including India, on Afghanistan, the army apparatus and the ISI still remains a liability. These factors must be taken into account while US deals with Pakistan.
An interaction with US Congressional Staff

What are India’s energy needs? How will the 2014 elections play out in India? What is the future of the Indo-Iranian relations in the backdrop of US led sanctions? How does India view the US-Pakistan relations? These were some of the questions visiting US Congressional Staff were keen to know during an interaction with members of Observer Research Foundation faculty.

The session started with members of the faculty being asked about how India views its energy security challenges in the next few years. Vivan Sharan, Associate Fellow, ORF, while making the opening remarks, outlined how the Integrated Energy Policy draws a roadmap for India’s energy policy in the next few years. India is looking to diverse its energy sources in the next few years and that is one of the top most priority. However there is no doubt that till 2020-30, the supply mix for energy requirements will not see any significant change. This means that for the next twenty thirty years, coal would still form the bedrock of India’s energy needs. However, on the other hand, India has made considerable progress in the field of generation of renewable energy as well. India is among the top five renewable energy producers of the world. A vital angle to the energy question in India is the challenge to supply energy to the homes of 400 m people who still don’t have access to energy.

LNG can emerge as a future potential source of energy for India but a major challenge in that is upgrading the storing and harbouring facilities of the ports in the country so that transportation ceases to be a challenge in importing LNG from foreign shores. In this respect, the questions of the pipelines the-TAPI and the IPI pipelines become important. Recently India signed an MOU on the TAPI pipeline however the question of security of these pipeline becomes a concern for India, since both these projects pass through the troubled regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nandan Unnikrishnan, Vice President, ORF, said the fact is that security of the pipelines are indeed a prime concern for India and India will not warm up to the idea completely until its concerns are addressed. He also stated that India was now beginning to look towards the east as well in getting gas reserves from Myanmar and Bangladesh. He stated that he sees no rapid shift from coal based energy supply to other sources until there is a certain stimulus .This stimulus can either come in the form of India running out of coal supply or climate change issues preventing other countries from supplying coal to India. Shale gas can emerge as a viable alternate form of energy in the coming years, but the cost of setting up gasification plants for shale gas is quite high. Hence it is not economically viable for India at this point.

On the question of Iran, Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, said that India has vibrant economic and long civilisation links with Iran. India has recently announced investment of 100 m dollars towards development of the Chabbar port. India is also building a road from Iran to Afghanistan border. Iran is a pivot for India with regard to its Afghanistan policies, he argued. India recognises Iran as a power in the Gulf, but at the same time supports UN sanctions on Iran with regard to its nuclear policies. However, India does have much leverage in the Iranian nuclear programme since the space for a political dialogue does not exist at this point. Wilson John, Vice President,ORF, also argued that India views Iran as a major constituent in establishing stability in Afghanistan post 2014 American forces withdrawal from Afghanistan soil.

Dr. Rajeswari Rajagopalan ,Senior Fellow ,ORF, said while India continues to build a robust relationship with Iran based on historical and trade linkages, it mustn’t forget the role of Iran with respect to the Kashmir issue in the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries ) forum .Also, Iran’s continued support to terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine is something that must be looked at as well.

Manoj Joshi also argued that we must understand why a nation wants to go nuclear. There is a threat perception from US in Iran which is real. Also, Iran’s own history of Iran-Iraq war where more than 2, 50,000 people were killed serves as a grim reminder to the country. Also, the history of the world has taught Iran that the only way to escape a US led regime change in its country is by going nuclear.

Moving on to the subject next general elections in India, Manoj Joshi said the elections will be interesting. The regime of UPA 2.0 has been fairly lacklustre in terms of services delivery and is mired with corruption and scandals. In such a scenario, the opposition party BJP led alliance, NDA, has a better chance. But then again, the de facto Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP seems to be Narendra Modi -- someone whose secular credentials are almost zero. Hence, the debate on how the elections will shape up is still open and too early to speculate at this point.

On the question of US-Pakistan relations, Wilson John said that Pakistan’s history as a mischief maker in the Afghanistan region is well documented. He sees no change in that stance once US troops leave Afghanistan post 2014. Hence, US must have a cautionary approach towards Pakistan with regard to the Afghanistan issue post 2014. Though the political machinery of Pakistan is willing to work with all parties, including India, the army apparatus and the ISI still remains a liability. All these factors must be taken into account while US deals with Pakistan in the region.

(This report is prepared by Ibu Sanjeeb Garg, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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