The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, visited key energy-rich states in the first six months of his election, proving that India is no longer content with playing ‘catch-up’ to other resource-seeking states (Saritha 2014) and is redefining its state-driven energy security strategy.
Energy security is one of the Indian state’s chief strategic and political issues as it seeks to consolidate its economic success over the recent decade. Dadwal and Sinha indicate that over 70% of India’s crude oil demand was met through imports using a mixture of short-term policy mechanisms built on relationships with international oil companies (IOC) and to seek preferential terms from these IOCs. Today, the state is seeking to acquire energy assets overseas and competing with IOCs and National Oil Companies (NOC) within a formal resource-driven approach. India’s growing oil demand has forced the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to ‘acquire acreages abroad for exploration as well as production.’ (Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas 1999). A new institutional approach that has been enshrined in the state’s ‘India Hydrocarbon vision 2025 report’ clearly points to a more aggressive resource-based approach from the Indian State. This new energy security approach indicates that the state is using multiple approaches to drive resource-seeking, especially in the African context.
These strategies can be broadly classified into the following:
1.A market-based approach of energy security
2. An institutional-based approach using all state and non-state assets to seek and obtain access to energy sources
3.A security-based approach that offers a security umbrella to resource-rich actors.
Some of the specifics of these approaches are:
(i)The Indian state has begun to leverage India's energy “Buyer Power" to access quality E&P projects abroad or what we would like to define as a market-based energy security approach.
(ii)Diversification of Energy Supply: The Indian state is also considering several diversification options to ensure supply security; hence the need for diversification into new supply sources as well as securing new routes of supply.
(iii)The inclusion of the private sector through the Confederation of Indian Industry’s energy division that has been holding seminars and conferences, increasing the visibility and uptake of the state’s new approach.
(iv)The creation of a specialised energy security cell within the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that is staffed with career diplomats who have expertise in specific and strategic markets that India would like to access as well as defense and industry experts in the field of energy asset acquisition.
(v)The use of diplomatic and political strategies for the import of energy resources from geographically close states has become an instrument of state policy enshrined in its institutional-based approach. For years, policy mandarins have indicated that state inertia combined with a lack of coordination amongst several ministries prevented the Indian state from competing with China. This is no longer the case apparently.
(vi)Indian foreign policy and its execution by the Foreign Service are of prime importance in this new scenario. The Indian state is moving aggressively to increase the diplomatic corps as well as language /geography specialists.
(vii)The policy of the state to encourage the transportation of crude oil through Indian flag vessels was proposed as a form of its security-based approach. An example of this approach has been the very recent political engagement India is seeking with Indian Ocean states. According to Chatterji (2015) the security-based approach is a response to protect the sea-lanes of communication (SLOC) that transport India’s energy resources as well as to increase the state’s ability to extract resources from newer distant markets.
(viii)The new reality of geostrategy within Asia, with China acting aggressively in both the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, is forcing India to abandon its traditional non-aligned approach and move to aggressively engage its immediate neighbourhood.
The importance of the African continent and renewed focus on East Africa in particular has been visible in the political and economic engagement of the Indian state. In 2011 India imported over 21% of its total oil and gas imports from 8 African countries, with India’s national oil company OVL planning to invest $12 billion, focusing primarily on African connections. (Pradhan 2012) In addition, a joint-venture with ONGC and the Mittal group announced a $6 billion investment in Nigeria to set up a refinery, power plant, and railway infrastructure. (Pradhan 2012)
The Chief Executive of the world oil and gas assembly, Narendra Taneja, has been quoted in Pradhan (2012), stating that ‘today’s growth story is India and in 15 to 20 years the growth story will be Africa. India wants to be in Africa as a strong partner.’ There is a renewed focus on East Africa due to historical connection and the influence of the Indian diaspora within the economic sector of several African states. In addition, the Indian state feels that governments in East Africa are becoming more transparent and willing to do business with Indian firms. Several Indian companies have already been engaging with East Africa for export markets as well as to provide new segments for products and services. As an example, one of India’s largest telecom providers, BHARTI Telecom, is currently one of Africa’s biggest telecom service providers. But in spite of Africa’s potential, India has been slow to engage due to the perceived inability of the state to compete with China in resource-seeking on purely commercial terms as well as the political difficulties of engaging with fairly unstable states in the region.
We attempt to look at this issue through an analysis of India’s involvement in Kenya. The state of Kenya in Africa was chosen partly due to its historical connections to India and the researchers access to key political and economic elite within the Kenyan state. Consideration was also given to Kenya’s status as a new oil producer state, the role of the Indian diaspora in its development, and its recent key engagement with Asian powers. India’s NOC, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), through its overseas exploration subsidiary ONGC Videsh (OVL), has been reported to be considering the takeover of Tullow Oil PLC in Kenya. (Verma 2014) By taking over the company, the Indian state through OVL will have access to existing oil fields in the Turkana region of Kenya as well as the Jubilee oil field in the offshore waters of Ghana. (Verma 2014) This study focuses on three key aspects: the resource-based view approach used by firms; the institutional context of how firms deploy a mixture of resources and institutional capabilities to obtain the best possible competitiveness advantage; and how the state creates and fosters specific policy and institutional environments that support these strategies.
Figure 1 :Author Analysis of existing state owned Oil Assets
Some of the resource-seeking activities of the Indian state in key African markets from (Pradhan 2012) are:
(i)Nigeria- ONGC and the Mittal group. Another private firm, the Essar group, is reported have procured exploration and production blocks in Nigeria as well. The Gas authority of India Ltd (GAIL) is also looking to invest in a liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria.
(ii)Egypt - The Gas authority of India Ltd (GAIL) is reported to have entered into a joint venture with Egyptian natural gas (NATGAS) to distribute gas in Egypt.
(iii)Mozambique- Reliance industries and the Essar group have sought official government permission to bid for new exploration and production blocks.
(iv)Sudan - ONGC Videsh (OVL) was expected to invest $200 million in a 741 km pipeline that would link Port Sudan with the capital, Khartoum.
(v)Mauritius - In March 2006 India signed an MoU with Mauritius for the exploration of its offshore waters
(vi)South Africa- India’s negotiating to set up a compressed natural gas network.
(vii)Kenya - ONGC Videsh (OVL) plans to take over Tullow Oil PLC. By taking over the company, the Indian state through OVL will also have access to the offshore waters of Ghana.
Despite historical closeness to the continent as well as geographical proximity, the Indian state has not deployed any of its diplomatic assets or soft power because of the lack of institutional will to truly engage the African continent. The geographical proximity of Africa is one of the key reasons why there was renewed interest in Africa as a market and also due to the resources available in offshore waters. The African continent provides India with a wealth of opportunities in an ocean that the Indian state has dominated. Most of the African states around the Indian Ocean, like South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania, have historically attracted Indian investment and trade partnerships. In addition, India has been working to nurture relations with other oil-producing states like Nigeria, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. For example, in 2011 India signed a uranium agreement with Namibia and has also used state-owned companies like ONGC Videsh, private owned firms like the Tata group, and Vedanta resources to buy stakes in key resource assets. The potential of Africa as an alternative to dependence on the Middle East was also pursued by the Indian government through special government-to-government supply contracts as well as through special lifting quotas of oil resources. There is still much to be done to see the full realization of Indian development on the African continent. But progress is being made and the future will likely only see more intensive engagement and pursuit of mutually beneficial activities. Much of the literature today focuses on China’s presence in Africa. May this be the first step in making more realize how important a player India will be there as well.
(*) Andrew Amayo is a member of the faculty at Birmingham City University in the UK.