Energy Geopolitics and Pipeline Diplomacy in Central Asia: India’s Interests and Policy Options

DOI10.1177/0973598420943434
Published date01 December 2020
Date01 December 2020
Subject MatterArticles
1 L. N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, Astana, Kazakhstan.
Corresponding author:
Ramakrushna Pradhan, L. N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, Astana, Kazakhstan.
E-mail: rkpradhanjnu@gmail.com
Energy Geopolitics
and Pipeline
Diplomacy in
Central Asia: India’s
Interests and Policy
Options
Ramakrushna Pradhan1
Abstract
The global energy scenario is undergoing a tectonic shift in recent times.
While energy security has been emerging as one of the cornerstones
of the foreign policy of major countries, a new geological survey has the
promise of new discoveries and reserves untapped. One such epic new
frontier of the world geological survey has been the post-Soviet Central
Asia consisting of five “Stans” of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, along with the Caspian Sea region. Sitting on
huge untapped hydrocarbon potentials, the Central Asian geographical
entity in recent years has offered enormous opportunity and appeal for
countries adjacent to the region and far beyond. That is perhaps the
reason that even after the disintegration of the USSR, the geopolitical
importance of Central Asia has never waned down, instead it emerged
as a grand chessboard for regional and extra-regional players for the
immense opportunities it offered for the energy-crunch countries as
potentially new and non-OPEC source of oil and natural gas. In the quest
for energy security and diversity of supply sources by energy consumers,
the heartland has witnessed a new great game in the scramble for
resources. This accentuated struggle for oil and energy in the region
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
24(2) 216–246, 2020
2020 Jadavpur University
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DOI: 10.1177/0973598420943434
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Article
Pradhan 217
has further led to aggressive foreign policy formulations and strategic
calculation by countries such as the United States, China, the European
Union, Japan, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, and India, to which many now call “the
New Great Game” for not just controlling but administering energy
resources of the region. The bottom line of the New Great Game, unlike
the previous version, is essentially played out around petropolitics and
pipeline diplomacy. To support the scramble for energy in Central Asia
and the aggressive petropolitics and pipeline diplomacy by major powers,
the study adopts the peak oil theory of Club of Rome thesis to under-
stand the global tectonic shift of energy frontiers. Further, this article
attempts to examine the position of India in Central Asia and its policy
initiatives in the epic quest for oil and energy in the traditional bastion
of Russia and the new grand chessboard of China and the United States.
Keywords
Central Asia, India, energy, geopolitics, pipeline diplomacy, energy security
Introduction
Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley (2005) has characterized ten problem
areas in the context of the world’s quest for sustainability and prioritized
those as energy, water, food, environment, poverty, terrorism and war,
disease, education, democracy, and population. He accorded highest
priority to energy among all the chronic problems not just because
abundant, available, affordable, clean, efficient and secure energy would
enable the resolution of all the other problems, energy in addition is
needed to reclaim and treat water, grow food and manage the environment.
Once these goals are achieved, energy can be used further to arrest
poverty and disease and expand education and communication. By
meeting these basic needs, we can control the root cause of terrorism and
war, expand democracy, and stabilize population (Randolph and Masters
2008: 4). Therefore, energy is a decisive public, economic, social, and
environmental issue of high importance. It is, thus, the key for achieving
a sustainable world system and a constant flow of energy is, therefore,
required to maintain that order. Hence, it is no surprise that energy is
certainly the keystone of nature and society.
In fact, revelations of history also reflect the resultant use of energy in
the advancement of human society and civilization. Energy has freed

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