|Mani Shankar Aiyar|
Himal: You are acting as if time were running out in your search for energy.
Mani Shankar Aiyar: For energy security India must maximize domestic production of oil and gas, but our energy needs are so great that we need to look elsewhere as well. Hence, the importance of pipeline diplomacy. In India, we need energy so as to sustain high rate of growth in order to really get rid of poverty. Energy security is therefore at the core of both economic growth and national security. And we do not become more secure by avoiding Pakistan and denying ourselves access to something that we need.
What about the obvious American distaste for the whole project?
We have not been refuted when we have said that India has civilisational linkages with Iran, or that this project is very important for our economy. The pipeline is on track, though I am not pretending that it will be smooth. The real US position will emerge when we have a concrete agreement on our hands. An expression of anxiety at this stage does not mean that the pipeline is in jeopardy.
How can a gas pipeline be a confidence building measure?
The pipelines from Iran and Myanmar would merge India's economic interests with those of Pakistan and Bangladesh, which would be the transit countries. Sending ships with LNG on the high seas to Haldia or Gujarat may satisfy our energy needs, but there would be no peace implications.
Are already looking beyond to a Southasian energy grid?
The future lies in all the countries of the region being brought together, while respecting the political independence and sovereignty of each. Our historical truth is that we were one economy that was broken up. So we must work for integration after the past decades of disintegration. We need enmeshed economies and people's interaction across the frontiers. Without exaggerating the importance of the pipeline project as a peacebuilding exercise, I have no doubt it will make a major contribution.
Mani Shankar Aiyar, India's Member of Parliament and Minster of Petroleum and Natural Gas, was interviewed in his office at Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi.