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From 'Darkness' into Light

Nitya Nanda

By Charles K. Ebinger
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 248, price not stated.


South Asia is quite unfortunate when it comes to energy resources. It is home to about one-fifth of the global population, yet it has less than one percent of global oil and gas reserves. Its endowment is slightly better for coal and hydropower resources, but still they are less than 10 per cent. In fact, barring the two Himalayan nations of Nepal and Bhutan, other South Asian countries cannot think of an energy supply scenario without depending significantly on foreign sources in the foreseeable future. Given this, it is quite natural that ensuring energy supply in the region may have serious security implications. Hence, a new book on the subject is bound to evoke interest.   The author makes a case for ensuring energy security to address political instability in different parts of South Asia. Despite a long history of regional cooperation, actual cooperation, particularly in the field of energy has been elusive with some notable exceptions in the form of the Indus Water Treaty and India-Bhutan energy cooperation. Replicating such success stories is an imperative to provide energy security in the region.   The author provides a review of the history of the energy sector and the operating policies in some of the countries. While it would be difficult to disagree with most of the observations, one may not agree with the claim that India’s energy intensity is too high, as such a claim is based on a comparison of GDPs measured at market exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity based comparison. One of course would not disagree with the suggestion that there is enough room for improving energy efficiency in India. Another point of disagreement could be the author’s observation on India’s energy introversion. A country with about 40 per cent of its import bill being on energy resources can hardly have energy introversion. India has developed significant energy relation with Bhutan. It tried its best to have similar relations with Nepal but could not succeed largely due to Nepal’s own internal problems. It is often claimed that the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline could not materialize due to India’s security concerns vis-à-vis Pakistan, but the author himself attributes this to US pressure as well.   The author’s suggestions on using the coal resources in Pakistan and involving India in such efforts look interesting and need serious consideration. However, the suggestion of Bangladesh exporting coal and gas ...

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