Energy and India's Foreign Policy

This study was presented by PESD research fellows Jeremy Carl and Varun Rai and PESD Director David Victor at the conference The Future of India's Foreign Policy, hosted by the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania on April 22 and 23, 2008.

The study explores the role of energy in Indias foreign policy strategy and examines the wide gap between Indias need for a strategic energy policy and the government of India’s inability to put such a policy into practice. As a stark departure from the idealized vision, Indias energy supply chains that have grown increasingly creaky and unreliable. Only halting progress has been made towards reform and, without fundamental reform, it is likely that Indias global energy strategy will continue to be a failure.

In particular, the authors examine the relationship between Indias energy policy and its foreign policy by highlighting both themes and vignettes in three different areas of the energy system: oil & natural gas, coal, and electricity. They find that fickle domestic political coalitions dominate energy policymaking in India and that these unstable coalitions, when combined with the weak administrative capacity of the Indian state, leave Indias foreign policy apparatus incapable of making credible commitments in the energy sector.