Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline: Is it Possible?


Harsh Kothari

The blend of American and Iranian tensions and the tensions between India and Pakistan in a neo-liberal global order has formed a situation for India. India can neither adopt the decision to implement the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, nor can she abandon the pipeline because the stakes of energy security and geopolitics are too high for India to be able to afford losing the pipeline. Furthermore, the unfolding of various events since the formation of the Indian and Pakistani states in 1947 has influenced the fate of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline.


For this reason this dissertation analyzes various factors and relationships in a complex set of geopolitical relations in a globalized world, which influences the fate of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. In view of the various geopolitical problems, the ultimate argument of this essay is that India should delay the gas pipeline project until the various geopolitical tensions are ironed out in the future.

What international political constraints is India facing in relation to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline? What international political tactic should India pursue with to suit her interests in relation to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline?

This issue can be divided in 5 parts.

Part one: Introduction: The Need for a Gas Pipeline

At an age of globalization and interdependence, India, the largest democracy in the world, with a population of more than one billion people has been economically growing at the rate of more than 8%1 until the financial crisis began. Even then, a third of the population is living below the poverty line.2 In pursuit to uplift the poor, and at the same time continue a steady growth rate at a globalizing age and become a super-power, India is and will be heavily dependent on hydrocarbon energy.3 To acquire the required hydrocarbons, India’s foreign policy must tackle the foreign policy of other States who have conflicting interests not in energy related matters alone but also in overall security issues. The following dissertation will discuss the vitality of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, and will analyze the foreign policy constraints that India is facing in relation to the IPI gas pipeline. This dissertation will further investigate to emphasize what the ideal foreign policy for India ought to be in response to the challenges and constraints faced in pursuit to the IPI gas pipeline.

Before this dissertation continues the discussion of the IPI gas pipeline and the foreign policy in relation to that, it is paramount to first understand the phrase ‘energy security’. Daniel Yergin4 mentions that ‘energy security’ for countries like India, “lies in their ability to rapidly adjust to their new dependence on global markets, which represents a major shift away from their former commitments to self-sufficiency.”5 However, this articulation of ‘energy security’, whilst relevant, does not suffice because it is not broad enough to consider the various factors such as the cost and availability of energy when a nation like India considers ‘energy security’, hence Talmiz Ahmad’s6 articulation of ‘energy security’ as “the assured, where possible, exclusive access to energy resources at affordable prices to obtain sustainable growth rates and national economic development”7 helps relate the issue of the IPI gas pipeline to ‘energy security’. Furthermore, Shiv Kumar Verma’s8, while mostly echoing Yergin’s9 notion of securing energy helps understand the meaning and requirements of ‘energy security’ in India’s context to the trans-Pakistan pipeline. For India to be secured with its energy it firstly has to diversify her sources of energy, so that there is higher resilience from disruptions.10 Though in a globalizing world where there is much dependence on external countries, India must recognize the need to integrate with well informed institutions11 in order to gain more feedback about the energy markets. By ensuring the above, India would be able to comfortably face disruptions caused by political or technical realities12, and would also be able to forecast and calculate the political and commercial maneuverings globally with the use of more information. In order for India to achieve this, it is paramount for India to strongly consider the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline option in order to secure energy since it will help India tap into the Iranian energy market, which will diversify sources for India’s gas consumption, making India more resilient to withstand energy shocks, and will also help India be more informed of the hydrocarbon market through collaboration and cooperation with energy producing nations like Iran and institutions related to it such as BHP Billiton or Donner Gas.

However, in order to understand India’s strive to energy security, it is important to note that the IPI gas pipeline is a proposal that comes with a package of intense geopolitics. Thus, it is crucial to understand the meaning of the term ‘geopolitics’. “Coming up with a definition for geopolitics is notoriously difficult”.13One possible definition for geopolitics, as coined by Rudolf Kjellen in 1899, which Gearoid Tuathail14 expresses is “the relationship between the physical earth and politics.”15 However, this definition is too broad to directly apply in a neoliberal global order, especially in the context of the IPI gas pipeline. Tuathail16 therefore sheds light by describing geopolitics in today’s world as the politics that deals with “a world dominated no longer by territorial struggles between competing blocs but by emerging transnational problems like terrorism, nuclear proliferation and clashing civilizations.”17 This notion of geopolitics suits this essay ideally because issues like terrorism, nuclear proliferation and the clashing interests of various states undermines the trans-national gas pipeline, hence creating a problem, not only in the area of energy security but also in overall security matters for states such as India and America. With this said, when analyzing India’s geopolitical situation, it is important to understand the advantages and threats that India faces, since this scenario will influence India’s maneuverings and decisions on the IPI gas pipeline.

Furthermore, before embarking on the constraints of the IPI gas pipeline, it is vital to contextualize the pipeline in India’s energy situation. At this point, “India is the fifth largest consumer of energy, and by 2030 it is expected to become the third largest consumer of energy, overtaking Japan and Russia.”18 In the current energy mix of India, gas accounts for 8% of the total energy and is expected to be 10% by 2030.19 In fact India consumes 49 billion cubic meters of gas, and can even potentially source 52 billion cubic meters domestically.20 Based on these figures, it may seem that India may just manage being largely self-sufficient with its domestic gas sources, hence the IPI gas pipeline may seem unnecessary. However, it is paramount to consider that electricity is arguably the most vital element that would guide India to be a greater economic power than it is already. Therefore it is imperative to acknowledge that currently there is a shortage of electricity of 11% at peak supply times.21 This shortage subsists where the supply of electricity already exists, but one must also consider that 17.8% of Indian villages do not even have access to electricity22, and 10% of the electricity is sourced from gas.23 As such, by 2024-25, India expects to have a gas demand of 125 billion cubic meters24, leaving a gap of a staggering 75 billion cubic meters25. In fact, 25% of the Indian gross domestic product (GDP) is based on Industry26, so it is even more important for India to have enough electricity to support her growth rate in the industrial sector. In addition to that the Indian government also seems to be trying to persuade its citizens to be more dependent on compressed natural gas (CNG) in order to run their vehicles27 because the Indian government believes that, as Talmiz Ahmed28 puts it, “Natural gas, being a ‘clean’ fuel, is increasingly seen as the fuel of the 21st Century.”29 In fact, Rahul Tongia30 further adds that natural gas has extensive domestic uses, some of which include, cooking, generating electricity, and aids in the fertilizer and petrochemical industries.31 Furthermore, most buses in New Delhi are meant to be converted into CNG run vehicles, just like the rickshaw, which is a mass source of public transport in India.32 For this domestic reason, it is important for India to consider the IPI gas pipeline option.

In order to present my argument coherently in regards to the trans-Pakistan pipeline, I will firstly discuss the geopolitical situation of India and the challenges India faces that both prompts and deters India to consider the IPI gas pipeline. However, the geopolitics of India today cannot be separated by the notion of neo-liberalism since the idea of ‘complex interdependence’33 is rather relevant in understanding India’s dilemmas and constraints when considering the IPI gas pipeline, even though the notion ‘complex interdependence’ has been deliberated in relation to information and power rather than transnational pipelines specifically.34 Furthermore, this dissertation will discuss India’s dilemma caused by the rift between America and Iran, followed by the tensions between India and Pakistan, which influence the tensions in implementing the IPI pipeline. Additionally, I will discuss how India should pursue with the IPI pipeline and its politics throughout the essay. Overall, I will be arguing that India must not under any circumstance abandon the pipeline project, since it will undermine India’s geopolitical and energy interests. At the same time I will also maintain the stance where I advocate that India at this point, cannot afford to infuriate the American government by supporting Iranian foreign policy so openly, nor is India in a situation to open arms of friendship with Pakistan entirely. Hence my final argument will be that India should take a middle ground between Iran and America, and at the same time resolve other matters that are more relevant to the India-Pakistan tensions before the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline is implemented. Therefore the best option available is to delay the gas pipeline until the opportunity to implement the proposal ripens.

Part two: The Neo-Liberal context of India’s Geopolitics.

The Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, also known as the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline35 or the “peace-pipeline”36 is an opportunity for Iran, Pakistan and India to be interdependent on each other37 in pursuit to peace and energy security. For Iran, this pipeline will mandate energy security because it will tap into the South Asian markets in order to earn revenue for the country38, whilst India and Pakistan, who have high energy demands39, would find the import of gas through a pipeline at a reasonable price to be a boon. Amanullah Khan Jadoon40 phrases that, “The South Asia region will benefit from the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project as it will provide a foundation for future economic growth, peace and cooperation throughout the region.”41 However, there are various geopolitical challenges to the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline project that include terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The following chapter will outline what the major challenges are for India that links to the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline when considering energy security in a neo-liberal world order. Furthermore, throughout the chapter, it will be emphasized that India should neither abandon nor embark upon the pipeline project since it is necessary for India to balance her actions in geopolitics to suit her interests.

Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane’s42 notion of “complex interdependence”43, which analyzes various “transnational issues”44 helps us understand how India considers various networks of relationships in pursuit to deciding whether the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline can be implemented or not. The most important evaluation that India has to make is whether she can achieve her national objective of energy security with the given gas pipeline project and at what expense. At this point, the theory of neo-liberalism, whereby “security and force matter less and countries are connected by multiple social and political relationships”45 is relevant in understanding both the opportunities and challenges that come with the possible implementation of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. Nye and Keohane46 acknowledge that “military force still plays a significant role in relations between states, and in a crunch, security still outranks other issues in foreign policy”47. This acknowledgement helps describe India’s dilemmas that weigh the possibility of having a 2,775 kilometer pipeline48 with a diameter of 44 inches49 that can help India save $300 million per year in energy transport50, and about $10 billion over a decade because of cheaper gas through a gas pipeline51 with a volume capacity of at least 3.2 billion cubic feet per day (BCFD)52 against risks of possible pipeline disruptions that may be caused in turbulent areas of Baluchistan in Pakistan that runs for 475 miles53, or for that matter being sucked in the political baggage of the key regional and geopolitical players that are somehow linked to the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. With this dilemma in mind, the importance of neo-liberalism marks a grave sense of importance because although there is the concern of national security for India, and even though India’s major political rival, Pakistan, is involved in the pipeline, the mere fact that both India and Pakistan strive for energy creates a situation where they both are prepared to consider a proposed pipeline that could make the two rivals heavily interdependent. Nonetheless, the subsequent paragraphs, will evaluate the geopolitics of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline in linkage to neo-liberalism, and will serve as a precursor of the explanation for India’s relationship with Iran and America, and Pakistan, which would be further explained in succeeding chapters.

As mentioned in the introduction, India’s economy is growing at a rapid rate, and so in order to be able to meet the energy demands, India will need more sources of energy, and one of them is gas, which comes from the South Pars of Iran54. Although India has various sources of partnerships and synergy from where hydrocarbons can be imported from, such as the Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, and also other countries from around the world like Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Nigeria55, it is still in India’s interest to further look for more partners with reliable quantities of energy. Furthermore, it is noteworthy to remark that Iran holds 16% of the gas reserves in the world56, which also makes the Iranian gas reserves the second largest in the world after Russia57. This means that the gas that would come from Iran into India is most likely not to dry out soon; In fact, Shiv Kumar Verma58 suggests that Iranian gas could supply India for the next 200 years59. Interestingly however, Talmiz Ahmed60 contradicts Verma by estimating that hydrocarbons will not last for more than 60 years in the world at this rate of consumption61. Verma’s figure however, seems more convincing because Ahmed does not consider that a lot of the gas in Iran has not been exported because of American sanctions imposed on Iran, which is caused due to Iran’s nuclear enhancement62. Furthermore, Verma also explicitly noted that the Iranian government claims that their gas will last for another 500 years63, and Ahmad’s estimation of only 60 years maybe coming from what the Indian government estimates since Ahmad is an Indian diplomat64. Therefore, he may only present figures that the Indian government officially estimates. Hence, it is important to consider that Iran is in a better position to judge how much gas they have and how long it will last than India simply because they are closer to that resource. The larger point is that America dissents any collaboration with Iran, which is illustrated by the sanctions that restrict any party to invest more than $20 million in the Iranian hydrocarbon industry65. The Indian government, on the other hand, is still open to consider Iran as a mutual partner. For India, however, the rift between Iran and America is a strong dilemma that has occurred due to the emergence of neo-liberalism. India’s strong economic ties with the United States is important for India according to Stephen Cohen66 because “India needs American investment and technology”67 when considering that India is “a critical supplier of software and other computer products”68. Such a relationship has led a sense of strong interdependence between India and America. The finalization of the civil nuclear energy agreement between India and the United States, which happened after the Senate and the Congress, passed the bill on the 28th September and 1st October 2008 respectively69, has further increased the interdependence between the two countries.

With American pressures to discourage India to not collaborate with Iran, as Sharmila Chaudhary implies70, a country with whom India has an agreement to import 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for 25 years from 2009 onwards71, becomes difficult because India has to please both the countries and at the same time disappoint both because of the complex relations and interdependence that exists between the concerned countries in relation to the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. Hence, it is evident that neo-liberalism and complex interdependence is an important factor in understanding the options for India in securing the gas pipeline. In order for India to secure energy in a neo-liberal global order it is important to maintain relationships with both America and Iran. When considering the massive opportunities that lay with the implementation of the gas pipeline for India, it is illogical for India to afford to abandon it, yet at the same time to jump into it by disappointing America also seems unfeasible. Hence the most palpable option is to weigh out the options over time by balancing the interdependence that India has with Iran and America, and using the interdependence to India’s advantage.

Whilst the acknowledgement of the vitality of neo-liberalism is important in determining India’s behavior in pursuit to energy security and the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, the “realist assumption about the dominance of military force and security issues remain valid”72 in establishing India’s actions. This is especially true when considering the relations between India and Pakistan. Sumit Ganguly73 explains that India and Pakistan have been rivals since the “British colonial withdrawal from the subcontinent in 1947.”74, and since then the most vital issues has been the Kashmir crisis75. Ganguly further implies throughout his book that unless the Kashmir issue is resolved, peace between the two countries is unlikely76, which is rather convincing because in most conflicts and tensions that India and Pakistan have had, the Kashmir question has been the center piece of attention. For this reason India has made sure that she has been spending on her defense adequately with a figure of 45432.26 crore (1 crore equivalent to 10 million) rupees for 2007-2008 according to the Annual Indian Defense Report77 in order to ensure that rivals such as Pakistan, and for that matter even China are deterred from entering in any military operation against India, as implied by the defense report at various instances78. This system however has led to the emergence of a complicated type of warfare in the subcontinent, that of terrorism, which was seen during the 60 hour terrorist siege of various prime buildings in Mumbai79. Interestingly India has managed to gather enough evidence against Pakistan to conclude that terrorist activities in India are supported by the Pakistani government80. Unfortunately, this does not undermine the notion of neo-liberalism alone but also the plausibility of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline being implemented. However, for Pakistan this gas pipeline is worth $14 billion of income over 30 years81, and $700 million of income every year through transit fees from India82. In addition to that Pakistan has been suffering from severe shortage of foreign exchange83. Taking this into account, the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline could result to be a massive boon to Pakistan, but this could only happen with the support of India. Since Pakistan is not too keen on being dependent on India for this pipeline, it is looking for new partners such as China, who may join the pipeline running from Iran to Pakistan if India will not take part in the pipeline84. Despite the hostility between India and Pakistan, the time of globalization, and the transnational nature of energy constraints have forced the two countries to strongly consider a pipeline that will make the two of them interdependent. In fact, Pakistan can potentially import gas at quantities of 2.8 billion cubic feet per day through the pipeline85, which can cover up the natural gas demand and supply gap of 0.8 BCFD as of 200586. It is therefore only logical for Pakistan to take every effort to pursue with this pipeline. However, unless India is not a part of this project, Iran may not be too keen to export this gas to Pakistan because the volumes may not be high enough for Iran87 despite the availability of funding for the pipeline. This scenario blends in rather smoothly with the concept of neo-liberalism because although there are hostilities, the need for cooperation and integration for a transnational project supersedes the coercive nature of an offensive state, such as Pakistan. For India this project is definitely worth considering because it is an opportunity to have Pakistan be dependent on India, whilst at the same time the risks of cooperating with a hostile nation also exists. Nevertheless the focal point is that at a time of globalization and, when sustaining a growing economy is at the forefront of Indian priority, the Indian government is induced to consider the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline to attain energy security against overall state security.

To further assert the importance and linkage of complex interdependence to the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, it is important to gather in the China factor. If China may be prepared to fund Pakistan for this gas pipeline88, then China must be considered as a vital element in the pipeline equation. China’s ulterior motives in being part of the pipeline is possibly to restrict India from getting the energy boost from Iranian gas imports, and at the same time create a strong rapport with Iran and Pakistan, and hence take an upper-hand in China’s geopolitical situation in comparison to India. As such India and China are rivals, and they have even had a war in June 196289 over a border dispute in the Aksai Chin region90. However, contrary to the expected competition between the two countries, the two countries are drawn in to a situation whereby they are compelled to cooperate and collaborate with each other in the energy sector. The production of hydrocarbons in India and China put together accounts for only 2% of the world’s production91; in contrast India and China are responsible for the 35% growth in hydrocarbon consumption in the world92. India and China account for a third of the world population, and so their energy needs would be similar. With such similarities, both the countries have acknowledged the need to cooperate. This was evident when a high level Indian delegation went to China when one of the Chinese delegate said that the two countries have “great potential of cooperation.” They further agreed to cooperate bilaterally on various matters including joint ventures in exploration and production of energy resources, and refining petrochemicals, and even in upstream exploration and production. Nonetheless, China does continue to try and disrupt India’s energy security by supporting coercive Pakistani intentions by, for example, helping Pakistan test their cruise missiles93 and “supplying advanced fighters- the JF-7 and the F10 to Pakistan.94 This juxtaposition is created because of the emergence of a neo-liberal global order, where even countries like India and China that are also fundamentally rivals see opportunities to cooperate with each other despite the fact that the Chinese keep trying to cut India’s security down, in order to, arguably disrupt the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline project to undermine India’s energy interests. This scenario is linked to a globalized world order also because “bilateral exchanges between Indian and Chinese companies have been intensified”95. So it only makes commercial sense for the two countries to cooperate with each other on certain energy matters, yet at the same time the two are wary of each other from a security point of view, hence creating a unique geopolitical oxymoron.

An important aspect of neo-liberalism is that international politics is not constrained just to the states or supra-national organizations such as the United Nations. Neo-liberalism allows “Non-governmental actors have much greater opportunities to organize and propagate their views”96, these can include corporate companies as well, because, as Anne Mette Kjaer97 articulates, “financial markets have become increasingly integrated”98. For example some companies have found a vested interest in participating in the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, of which one of the major company being BHP Billiton Ltd.99 As such the history of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline dates back to 1989 when Pakistan floated the idea of an overland pipeline from Iran to Pakistan100, and interestingly BHP Billiton Ltd. With the support of Australia conducted a feasibility study for Pakistan without charging any fees101. This portrays the dependence of states on non-state actors. Then, in 2003, BHP Billiton Ltd was assigned to assess the gas pipeline102, and the results seemed rather favorable. The company also projected that Pakistan, from the pipeline, will gain 60 whilst India 90 million metric standard cubic meters per day (MMSCMD)103. The dependence of Iran, Pakistan, and India to rely on the information given by BHP Billiton, an external party beyond the three states, explicitly shows that at some point or the other there is some interconnectedness between the three countries despite the existing cynicism. From a financial perspective, $7.5 billion104 is a steep task to get funds between the three countries. However, according to Narsi Ghoban105, “An Iranian Company called Donner Gas in Dubai recently secured a contract from Iran to pipe gas to Dubai.”106 As such the initial public offering (IPO) in the Dubai stock market was worth $660 million107, and most fortunately for Iran the company eventually raised $78 billion108. “Therefore, it is possible to raise three to four billion US dollars for an international pipeline such as the India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline.”109 This information helps us further link the notion of complex interdependence because various institutions and states link in directly or indirectly to contribute to, in this case, the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. Such sort of interdependence means, for India, the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with various institutions, states, and individuals. This ultimately will mean that India will have her ears closer to the ground to understand the energy market better. This would enable India to play a more proactive role in the global energy sector, and ultimately suit her own interests through the network by being more informed, hence more calculated, and at the same time finding access to a variety of sources, thereby making India a more resilient country in energy security.

Finally, Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane’s110 notion of “complex interdependence”111 helps us understand how India considers various networks of relationships in pursuit to deciding whether the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline can be implemented or not. However, the decision is not going to be black and white, because whilst neo-liberalism persists in guiding the fate of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, the realist notion of the importance of security continues to emerge to fight the neo-liberal global order, hence becoming an obstacle for the implementation of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. For the United States of America, the Iranian nuclear enhancement is seen as a security risk112 for which reason America is isolating Iran in order to ensure that the nuclear enhancement remains for civilian uses only113. This sense of skepticism creates a situation whereby the American government does its best to ensure that the allies of America do not encourage any financial developments with Iran, which would help Iran build economically to support the nuclear enhancement programs. At the same time Iran would try hard to undermine American hegemony and try to dodge sanctions by forming alliances with South Asian countries like India and Pakistan. On the other hand India and Pakistan themselves have had a tense history since their independence from British rule114, and the fact that the two countries have been at war thrice does not help the development of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline even though both of the countries are aware that cooperating for this pipeline would ultimately benefit their energy needs. In the long-run, with the continuation of a neo-liberal global order, companies such as BHP Billiton and Donner Gas may continue to play a significant role in determining the behavior of states in relation to a particular project or an issue. Hence, when considering India’s take on the current pipeline scenario, it is important that the country continues to uphold the spirit of neo-liberalism, since it is the idea that time has chosen. With this said, India should communicate, and collaborate with every country that plays a geopolitical role in relation to the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. The problem with this is that various states would have conflicting interests, and India becomes the state in between that needs to wriggle through these conflicting interests like with the case of Iran and America.

Finally, Girijesh Pant115 argues concisely that “India will not kill the project but is neither desperate.”116 By this he implies that India will delay the pipeline until time has ripened to suit India’s political interests, and this is precisely what India ought to do. Pant’s argument, however, is counter-argued by Ahmad117 who states that the project is based “purely on a commercial basis and not to permit any whiff of politics to influence the negotiations.”118 Ahmad’s argument however is unconvincing because interdependence between the geopolitical actors has increased to such an extent, that although there is a need to implement the pipeline for Iran, Pakistan and India, the relationship between each of these countries with companies and nations like the United States alike forge to create a complicated set of geopolitics making any progress on the pipeline rather difficult.

Part Three: India and the Iran-America rift

The United States of America and Iran have a bitter relationship. This creates various repercussions to Indian foreign policy since India has cordial ties with both, Iran and America. In fact, it is in India’s interests to have close ties with Iran, a country with 16%119 of the world’s gas reserves. At the same time, India’s relationship with the United States reached a milestone in July 2005 “when the Bush administration declared its ambition to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India.”120 As explained in the introduction, it is paramount for India to diversify its energy sources, especially gas, since gas reserves will support India’s economic growth in the near future. For this reason, despite American pressure on India to abandon economic ties with Iran, it is important for India to continue strong cooperation with Iran and eventually succeed in implementing the IPI gas pipeline, which would help India significantly. The following chapter will evaluate India’s compromises and successes in negotiating American dissent to the trans-Pakistan pipeline, which is further tightened due to Iran’s nuclear enhancements. This evaluation will help in understanding the extent to which India is effective in managing the rift between Iran and America, and how this management should be pursued by India.

India’s increasingly strong ties with America have created a strain with Iran on various occasions; India has still managed to retain a positive rapport with Iran. In fact, Harsh Pant121 articulates that “With the signing of the U.S.-India nuclear pact, India’s relationship with Iran has attracted an even closer scrutiny from America”122. On the other hand Pant123 informs that the trade between India and Iran is worth more than 3 billion dollars on an annual basis.124 The focal point here is that despite the case that the United States has made explicit warnings of setting up sanctions against countries that makes energy deals with Iran,125 India has still managed to continue having strong hydrocarbon trade with Iran whilst pursuing with the nuclear agreements with America. This, for a start, exposes the tactful diplomacy that India exerts in order to get the best of both worlds. However, whilst “Iran looks at India as its viable economic and strategic partner to counter the growing American pressure”126, Iran seems to have failed to make India a partner that counters American pressure, because India has been influenced by American motives, which was evident because in February 2006 when India referred Iran to the Security Council in relation to the Iranian nuclear program. 127 At the same time India is also keen to have Iran’s support in various matters, such as tapping into the Central Asian and Caspian Sea energy resources.128 Such circumstance create various foreign policy dilemmas for the Indian government, but despite the dilemmas the Indian government recognizes that the 1724 mile129(approximately 2775 kilometers) pipeline worth at least 7.4 billion dollars130 is vital if India wants to secure energy and save up to 10 billion dollars over ten years131without even including the amount India would earn because of productivity that is created because of the availability of energy with the help of the gas pipeline instead of importing that same gas by ship. Furthermore, India also must ensure that the trans-Pakistan pipeline must not be abandoned, even under intense American pressure, because on the 9th of March 2009, President Zardari announced Pakistan’s willingness to continue a gas deal with Iran regardless of India’s involvement or not.132 India’s exclusion in this possible landmark deal would have significant disadvantages to her energy security and geopolitical interests because if Pakistan starts having more regional cooperation with other countries, especially Central Asian countries and the countries surrounding the Caspian Sea basin, then the influence of India’s diplomacy could be weakened by Pakistani tactics, which may be supported by China. The point being made here is that American pressure on India to not participate in the trans-Pakistan pipeline could result with heavy setbacks for Indian diplomacy in regional cooperation; hence the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline must by no means be abandoned by India.

The Iranian isolation, which was perpetuated by the United States, has led countries like Russia and China to support Iran both diplomatically and militarily like they did to India after the 1998 nuclear tests.133 This scenario actually means that countries like Russia and Iran would be cooperating in determining where their gas will be sold respectively. This means that Iran would not want to compete the Nabucco gas pipeline134 that goes from Russia to the west through countries like Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Austria135, which is owned by Gazprom136. So if Iran builds a pipeline to fuel her economy, then the Iranian pipeline would have to go eastwards in order not to clash with Russian interests, and for that reason the Russian government does support the trans-Pakistan pipeline, since it also taps into the Asian markets137via an ally, Iran. Due to this there is an increasing tension that continues to underlie between Russia and the United States. This means that the United States has an additional reason to dissent the trans-Pakistan pipeline. On the contrary, according to Cohen138, the promotion of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline would suit American interests.139 The logical reasoning could be because the United States would have a sizeable control over Afghanistan because of their occupation. This would mean that a project such as the trans-Afghanistan pipeline would be in control of America, which also competes the Iranian hydrocarbon market. Furthermore, if America keeps control of a pipeline that has influence over the energy security, therefore the economy too, of South Asia, primarily major energy consumer markets like India and to an extent Pakistan too, then the geopolitical significance of America would further grow. An emerging power such as India would, in this respect, not find it appealing for another power to have so much influence over her economy and geopolitics than it already has in other trade and investment related sectors, which is already worth 27 billion dollars.140 On the other hand, Ariel Cohen141 referred to the Petroleum Minister of India, Murli Deora saying that both the trans-Afghanistan and trans-Pakistan pipeline are important for India’s energy interests,142 This illustrates why India may be enthusiastic about the two pipelines, specifically the trans-Afghanistan pipeline. Whilst Cohen’s argument is somewhat credible, the statement made by Stephen Blank illustrates that the American tactic to undermine the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline by proposing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is unlikely to succeed because India is “understandably reluctant to allow Pakistan to have a hand on its gas or oil supply.”143 Blank’s statement makes more sense than that of Cohen particularly when considering the relations India has with Pakistan. This raises an important question for Cohen; to what extent can India afford to be energy dependent on Pakistan? As such, should India consider the trans-Afghanistan pipeline then, it would be necessary for India to have another pipeline that can offset India’s diplomatic strength against that of America in the region, hence it would be ideal for India to also get the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline implemented against the trans-Afghanistan pipeline. As India has still not entirely committed to either of the pipeline due to the various reasons of complications, it does seem obvious that India is playing the right cards of a non-alignment type of a foreign policy.

From August 2006 to February 2007 there was a strong disagreement between Iran and India because of the pricing at which the gas would be transferred144, and this disagreement worked to India’s advantage when keeping in mind the relations between Iran and America. Iran was offering India $7.2 for every million British thermal units, whereas India was negotiating for $4.2 mmBtu.145 Interestingly, during this time Iran was being vehemently criticized by the United States and the United Nations Security Council146 regarding their nuclear ambitions147, and so during this time, the Iranian government managed to hastily agree with India in reducing the prices to secure alliance with India. A scenario such as this that comes with a statement made by former American President George W. Bush, “our beef with Iran is not the pipeline, our beef with Iran is the fact that they want to develop a nuclear weapon”148 creates an impression on India such that the Indian government is using America as a leverage to manoeuvre the economics of the trans-Pakistan pipeline. Of course, on the other hand there is strong indication that it was America’s pressures that led India to behave the way it did, and the IAEA meetings where India voted to refer Iran to the Security Council149 is itself a clear indication of American pressures on India. The repercussion of this referral was that Iran refused to ratify “the previously agreed liquefied natural gas (LNG) gas deal with India”150. Therefore, based on the information above, what comes to light is that for petty matters such as price differences, the Iran-America hostility can be used by India as a way to induce Iran to do what would suit India. The political actions that India takes against Iran, however, seems to hurt India, because if India’s gas imports become restricted, then it is bound to limit the economic growth of India. For this reason, it is in the Indian interest to continue to postpone the pipeline so that India can get certain negotiation successes, as it seems that Iran is rather desperate to get the eastern involvement in the Iranian economy. In the mean time, for India to submit to American foreign policy in condemning and referring nations like Iran is against the energy security interests of India.

Whilst delay is a necessity for the Indian government to play it safe with the trans-Pakistan pipeline, it is equally important that India does not abandon or be perceived to forsake the pipeline. Signs of the Indian government losing interest in the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline were becoming evident when the Indian government replaced the former Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was enthusiastic about the gas pipeline, with Murli Deora who “is perceived as belonging to the pro-U.S. lobby within India’s ruling Congress party”151. Murli Deora’s strong ties with America were evident after the nuclear deal between India and America passed after going through the Senate and the Congress on the 28th of November and the 1st of October 2008 respectively.152 The Indian government’s lack of cooperation with Iran and Pakistan for the trans-Pakistan pipeline was obvious when there was no representation from the Indian government153 during Murli Deora’s term in office as Petroleum minister. Subsequently both Tehran and Islamabad seemed frustrated, and even involved Beijing in the scene154. The Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi invited China to replace India’s position in the pipeline, or alternatively invest in the pipeline, though there seems to be no official confirmation from the Chinese government.155 Although, as discussed earlier, Iran may not see enough volumes in the Pakistani market alone, but it may still go ahead if China supports the pipeline. Though on the other hand, according to Verma, “China shows little interest in this project because China feels that this project is full of challenges”156. Though the point is that if China refrains from being involved in the pipeline, then India should consider herself to be very lucky because the scenario for India’s geopolitical influence would have faced a setback, since Pakistan got an upper-hand in regional and geopolitical cooperation, which India did not get. Pakistan, managed to gain Iran as a diplomatic ally, and at the same time consolidated a diplomatic stance on the pipeline by inviting Chinese neighbours, who also happen to be rivals of India at different levels of political and economic life. This has also created a situation which may have reduced the impetus of Indian relations with Iran, which ultimately has been caused by the American rivalry with Iran. With this said, it is important to note that upon investigating this paper initially, the trans-Pakistan pipeline, also termed as the “peace pipeline”157 by some academics since it is argued that it will create cooperation, integration, and interdependence between Iran, Pakistan, and India.158 Academics such as Verma even argue that once the pipeline is implemented, India and Pakistan would avoid conflict since Pakistan would be gaining $700 million in transit fees from India.159 However, upon deeper analysis, the trans-Pakistan pipeline is a formula for brutal geopolitical tactics to be played at a diplomatic level. The reason for this is that Iran, Pakistan and India are not the only countries involved in this geopolitical setting. Furthermore, the issue of nuclear proliferation has created a deep scar at the fate of the IPI pipeline. Due to this, India’s foreign policy, which strives to gain energy security through the collaboration of various states, seems to have gained to negotiate successes by taking advantage of the vulnerable situation by being neutral. Though when it becomes evident that India sides America more than Iran on matters that have a link to this pipeline, then the geopolitical setbacks become more palpable in the pipeline and energy equation. So, Pant’s160 articulation, “India must find its own balance in… shaping its policy toward Iran”161 is therefore well placed in context.

Contrary to the argument the last few paragraphs may have seemed to implied, India has not entirely played to American pressures. In fact, Pant explains that India, during the time it voted Iran to the Security Council, made sure that the “draft of the resolution passed by the IAEA were diluted to a significant extent at India’s insistence.”162 Pant also explains that Iran, being a friend of India, has also played against the interests of India since the Iranian government did not support India’s 1998 nuclear tests163 and “asked India and Pakistan to cap their nuclear capabilities by signing the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)”.164 Furthermore, Iran also touched India’s nerve by not condemning terrorist attacks on the Indian parliament in December 2001165, and further undermined Indian security interests by proliferating nuclear technology with the help of one of Pakistan’s former nuclear scientist, AQ Khan166. Although this information has is no direct link to the trans-Pakistan pipeline, it proves helpful to understand that it is not American pressure alone that has led India to take certain decisions against Iran, but were concerns of security interests for India. Jalil Roshandel167, in fact, emphasizes that the recent Mumbai attacks that were perpetuated by Pakistan are a loss to Iran because it “disrupted Iran’s politico-economic strategy”168 of pursuing with the gas pipeline, which is practically impossible unless India and Pakistan come to peaceful terms. It is perplexing to note that despite Roshandel’s accurate analysis of Iran’s loss, the Iranian government still pursues a policy that does not favour India’s security. Furthermore it also helps one understand that India and Iran have had a long-standing disagreement on the nuclear issue, and that India’s actions are fair and balanced rather than biased in favour of American foreign policy. The point being made here is that the perceived balance of the Indian foreign policy indicates an attitude by the Indian government that treats every issue exclusive from the other. By this, it is meant that the Indian government does not link the foreign policy of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline to other issues such as the referral of Iran to the Security Council not only because they are completely two different matters but also because it affected India’s security interests. However, whilst this is worth appreciating, the Indian government must be shrewd in noting that Iran and Pakistan consider and deliberate upon matters that are not directly linked to the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, and amalgamate all the issues to create an overarching foreign policy that dictates and differentiates a friend, a rival, or both. Interestingly for India, Iran is not her friend, even though academics such as Pant169 refer India as Iran’s friend because their cooperation is only limited to their mutual interests and since their sphere of cooperation is rather limited, partly because of the American and Iranian rivalry, India has to see Iran as both a rival and a friend.

It can therefore be safely stated that India is balancing her relationships based on her individual policy requirements rather than the larger geopolitical requirement. This is clearly demonstrated by Talmiz Ahmed when he quoted the Indian Foreign Secretary, “”Shivshankar Menon who categorically stated: ‘The nuclear deal and the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline projects are two separate issues and both are needed to ensure India’s energy security.’” This creates situations where India gains friends and credibility at an international level with countries like America, who are still insecure because they feel, as Roshandel agrues, that “emerging strategic relations between Iran and India could lead to cooperation in the nuclear sphere, or at a minimum provide the revenue that could be used to further Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program and its support for terrorism.”170 Paradoxically, Roshandel’s argument, as valid as it is, portrays short-sightedness of the United States since India’s and America’s security interests merge at various points. Nonetheless, it unfortunately is a loss for India on the coherence of a steady relationship with countries like Iran and America, with whom India shares economic interdependence, but this very interdependence creates a situation where India is compelled to reconsider her relationships in an unsteady manner because of underlying security interests that clash, which for obvious reasons cause hindrances to the implementation of the IPI pipeline. These challenges to the pipeline therefore demand more time until the concerned parties find creative ways to solve their problems cumulatively.

Part Four: India-Pakistan Relations

The India-Pakistan partition that was created in August 1947 created a strong rivalry between the two neighbors171. Ganguly,172throughout his edition suggests that this rivalry will exist as long as there remains a clash between the two countries for keeping a stronghold in the region of Kashmir173, which is located in the North of India at the border with Pakistan. Although the Kashmir issue has a completely different track record compared to that of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, they both are connected because the issue of Kashmir creates a relevance of peace between India and Pakistan, which ultimately influences the implementation of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline along with other issues such as prices, transit costs, and the involvement of other geopolitical actors. The subsequent chapter will analyze how the pre-existing relations of India and Pakistan creates obstacles to the trans-Pakistan pipeline and how other factors, which are directly or indirectly related to the gas pipeline also downplay the implementation of the pipeline. Ultimately though, I will be arguing that the best option for India is to wait until the Kashmir issue is resolved before implementing the pipeline.

In order for the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline to be implemented by having India agree is rather difficult at this position because before India risks continuing with this pipeline, it is paramount for there to be stability and peace in the region, which in return are “fundamental for the continued economic development and prosperity of its people.”174 A pipeline worth $7.4 billion175 can only happen if there is economic comfort in India, and this economic comfort has a strong link with security matters. In relation to the trans-Pakistan pipeline, security can be interpreted in various forms ranging from the security within India that encourages investments in India, to issues like state-sponsored terrorism, militancy and insurgency in all relevant countries, India, Pakistan, and Iran. Against the odds of the gas pipeline is, as Verma notes that “The strategic relationship between Pakistan and India remains undefined and unstable.”176 However, Verma also optimistically suggests that both India and Pakistan will cooperate with each other since there are five major reasons for the two countries to rectify their relationships.177 Verma explains that the two countries will not go to war for logical reasons such as the acknowledgment of people in India and Pakistan for peace178, and that both countries are aware, perceivably from past experience, especially India, that a coercive solution to the Jammu and Kashmir problem is detrimental to the interests of both countries. This is because it can lead to great chaos, as was noted by Timothy D. Hoyt who wrote in Sumit Ganguly’s179 edition that, when India and Pakistan were at a brink of a nuclear war after the 13 December 2001 attacks on the Indian parliament180, the ruling BJP party’s President, Jana Krishnamurthy stated that Pakistan’s “existence itself would be wiped off the world map.”181 Hence Verma believes that “the two countries realize that they need to carefully manage their relations in a nuclearized environment.”182 Finally, Verma also insists that globalization will lead the two countries to have a strategy that will incentivize cooperation between India and Pakistan183. It can be assumed, that the only possible cooperation the two countries can have in a globalized environment at this point is a trans-national pipeline, which comes with a baggage of complex interdependence that is being undermined by the need for state security. With these optimistic assumptions, it seems that Verma has portrayed his unconvincing naivety by indirectly implying that the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline will soon be implemented. However, I will argue that the relations with India and Pakistan are not in a situation that can accommodate a pipeline that will make both countries dependent on each other simply out of skepticism against each other, which is led by historic and current events that are perpetuated by the clash of security and territorial interest.

According to the Indian Defense Report, “there are more challenges than opportunities to world peace and regional security.”184 As far as the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline is concerned, regional security takes priority before such a project be insisted upon. In fact, there has been a significant corrosion in the home affairs of Pakistan185, which is evident from various events such as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto186, the bombings at the Marriot Hotel187 and the “resurgence of the Taliban along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.”188 When relating this security threat to the IPI gas pipeline, it is worthy of noting that if Pakistan is not able to provide enough security for a prominent leader such as Benazir Bhutto, or for that matter keep overall law and order, then the question of Pakistan being able to keep a trans-national gas pipeline safe seems out of the question. Although the Indian government insists that Pakistan and Iran respectively provide “national treatment of pipeline”189 , which means that any given country must provide security to an international pipeline just as though it is a national pipeline190, the likelihood of Pakistan to be able to support the security of such a pipeline seems unlikely since it seems definite that at this point Pakistan is unable to maintain internal security and more importantly the Pakistani state may induce disruptions to the pipeline. In fact, according to Hussain Haqqani in Ganguly’s edition191, there have been instances in history where Pakistan had promised peaceful cooperation with India192, an example being when Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan met the former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for confidence building measures in Lahore in 1999, when Pakistan and India seemed to be going on a pathway of peace, Sharif’s government captured a strategic point over the Srinagar-Leh highway in India, and pursued with combat with the Indian army, which shattered the confidence building measures.193 The tendency of Pakistan not being reliable on key security matters would convince one that a trans-Pakistan gas pipeline makes the pipeline a far away dream, which is rather unlike what Verma naively implies. In fact, it would be unfair to just assume that Pakistan’s inability to protect the trans-Pakistan pipeline is the main reason for India’s hesitation to initiate the pipeline, but it is also that India is rather skeptical of Pakistani intentions. As mentioned earlier, the Chinese government may possibly fund the pipeline from Iran to Pakistan. The interesting aspect of this situation is that the Chinese government has given no official confirmation of this in the media, but it is President Zardari, who in February 2009 announced China’s invitation for a financial role194. This from the Indian government could be perceived in various forms. One interpretation of this announcement could be that China is perpetuating a situation whereby they can get involved in the trans-Pakistan pipeline and restrict India’s possible gain of a geopolitical advantage. Whilst on the other hand it is also possible that Pakistan has prompted a diplomatic situation where India may be tempted to take rash decisions regarding the pipeline despite American pressures, hence forcing India into a situation where India disappoints the American government and also loses a geopolitical grip against China. Such diplomatic moves by Pakistan may compel India to be skeptical of Pakistan’s intentions in cooperating with India. So the crux of the matter is that it is highly unlikely that the pipeline moves much forward before there is some peaceful understanding between India and Pakistan.

Furthermore it is also vital to note that issues like terrorism are strongly linked to the relationship of India and Pakistan. Throughout history there have been major terrorist attacks on India195, allegedly, but with strong evidence, perpetuated by Pakistan.196 The most recent example being the Mumbai terror attacks on the Taj Hotel and other key symbolic locations197. To state that such terrorist attacks do not help the India – Pakistan relations and that this only becomes a setback to the trans-Pakistan pipeline would be euphemistic. It is notable that terrorism is related to the ongoing Kashmir crisis198, and so before India and Pakistan work on resolving the chances of starting the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, it should be a priority for both countries to agree a defined border for the current state of Jammu and Kashmir. As such, the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline does not pass through the troubled region of Kashmir, for which reasons one may argue that as long as terrorism is only contained to Kashmir, then the trans-Pakistan pipeline should be pursued with, though the flaw with this thought is that it is too narrow and does not consider that a tension in one region affects an entire geopolitical arena. In fact, G. Parthasarathy199 articulates that there have been “continuing efforts of the Pakistan establishment and militant groups linked to the military establishment to promote and participate in terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India.”200 For this reason, it is only logical for India to delay the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, not only because of the above mentioned Iran-America problems, but also because it is unwise for a country like India to trust that there would be no disruptions to the pipelines when being involved with Pakistan. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that there is no sense of political stability in Pakistan, especially in the Baluchistan area that covers 475 kilometers201, and so if at all any event leads to an increase in political tensions between the neighbors, then there would be no guarantee for the safety of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, which would also strongly affect the energy security of India. Interestingly, Luft explains that the Baluch tribesmen “oppose any energy projects in their area.”202 He further adds that there have been various disruptions of water pipelines, power transmission lines, and gas installations in the Baluch area203. Additionally Luft also articulates that a group of terrorists blew up gas pipelines in Pakistan when Iran’s Oil Minister, Bijan N. Zanganesh visited New Delhi to spread the message “that the “pipeline of peace” might be anything but peaceful.” Such incidents clearly determine the extent to which Pakistan is unreliable for any transnational gas pipelines. Based on the definition of energy security explained by Verma in the introduction, one must keep in mind that if terrorism persists in the South Asian region, then India will be vulnerable since it will not be able to be resilient nor will India be able to sustain a consistent sense of energy supply, which will not only disrupt electricity in India, but it will also be a cause for discouraging businesses from investing in India. Especially for large-scale industries that need high energy, and this was strongly acknowledged by the CEO of Infosys, Nandan Nilekani in an interview with Charlie Rose204. In short, terrorism destructs the infrastructure of India, which could include the trans-Pakistan pipeline, and this destruction has strong repercussions in the overall economic growth of India, which will slow down India’s economic growth rate. This in return impacts India’s ability to be competitive in the energy market, where countries like China, who are also economically strong, successfully take on energy tenders in competition with India in third countries like Angola, Iran, Sudan, and Kazakhstan.205

As far as energy security is concerned, it is also important for India to secure its energy by importing gas at an affordable price. However, upon analyzing the India-Pakistan relations and linking it to the affordability of gas, it seems that India may compromise overall security by paying transit fees to Pakistan to for importing through the IPI gas pipeline. Pranab Mukherjee, the External Affairs Minister of India expressed the disappointment of India in regards to the American financial support and aid to Pakistan206. In fact, there are reports that “US funds to fight against terrorism, has been used to purchase fighter jets, primarily aimed at India.”207 However, if India were to go ahead with the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline at this point, then it would undermine India’s claims on American financial aid to Pakistan, because Verma points out that Pakistan could receive as much as $700 million from gas transit fees from India.208 So India can potentially provide Pakistan with 25% of the military aid it receives right now from America, which is worth $2.8 billion 209 from the transit fees alone. For India to actually pay that amount in just transit fees could mean a possible risk by actually financing a hostile country such that it can afford to increase a defense budget that could undermine India’s efforts to curb terrorism. On the other hand, it could also be argued that such a massive financial collaboration would create interdependence, which would compel Pakistan not to take any coercive action against India. As such Shamila Chaudhary210 acknowledges that “India and Pakistan have never been successful in negotiating Kashmir.”211 Then, she argues that the trans-Pakistan pipeline will compel the true countries to reconsider the whole Kashmir crisis. 212Nonetheless, based on the previous terrorist acts that Pakistan has sponsored, it seems unconvincing to believe that such type of interdependence will have Pakistan to stop sponsoring or supporting terrorism for the gain of Kashmir. It is therefore wise, and logical for India to continue to delay the implementation of the pipeline, until there is some sort of understanding and stability between India and Pakistan. At this point though, it is vital for India, to negotiate a lower transit fee with Pakistan for this pipeline. Furthermore, India should also remind America its responsibility to maintain stability in South Asia by not aiding Pakistan since that will help reduce terrorism globally, and this would further help India get into a position by which it can take a decision that may help implement the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline project with fewer risks. This however is bound to take time, so delaying this project is inevitable and more importantly necessary.

Although there are political risks that come along with the gas pipeline for India, there are also some crucial scenario types that must not be neglected. S. Pandian213 articulates that “the pipeline project from Iran to India would make more sense in financial terms, as its primary justification would be sales to India, with Pakistan as only a secondary customer.”214 The mere fact that Pakistan is a secondary customer to Iran is an advantage to India because that would mean that the relations between Iran and Pakistan would be dependent on India to an extent for the gas pipeline because Pakistan’s market for energy may not be large enough for Iran to be interested solemnly on Pakistan, and so India has to be a part of the equation if there is to be any gas pipeline deal between Iran and Pakistan unless the pipeline continues into China instead of India. Amusingly, this situation links in with the situation in Kashmir. Pant215 and Pandian216 both echo that Iran has previously supported Pakistan with its claims on Kashmir instead of India. If the gas pipeline were to be implemented, then the interdependence of India and Iran on such huge volumes of gas supply transactions would mean that India can get an opportunity to have more bargaining power on the Kashmir issue with the help of Iran. The dilemma however is that India and Pakistan would find it difficult to continue with the gas pipeline unless the Kashmir problem is resolved, and Iran’s stance on Kashmir could be best negotiated if India continues with the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. Furthermore, it is vital to acknowledge that India has also sided America on Iran’s nuclear issue at various instances, but at the same time has also tried to dilute the Iranian nuclear topic as far as she could217 so that the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline could have less interference from America. It is important to acknowledge this because it helps understand the balance that India has to work with. Whilst India does not want to disappoint Iran and America, India also wants the geopolitical advantage of being a closer ally of Iran than Pakistan. Pandian218 expresses that Pakistan is strongly concerned with Iran-India relations and has previously done its best to restrict a pipeline from Iran to India219. In fact, Benazir Bhutto’s government was even reluctant to have a feasibility study done when a proposed gas pipeline from Iran to India was being considered to pass through Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which was about 200 kilometers into the Pakistani shores.220 For India this would have been the most viable option, because if there were to be such a pipeline, then the Indian navy would also have had access to Pakistani waters221, and from an overall security point of view, if India had such an access, then perhaps terrorist attacks, such as the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008 could have been somewhat avoided because of higher intelligence accesses for India since the attackers came via the sea route.222 The point however is that energy security has an inevitable link to the overall security of the Indian society when studying the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline.

Finally, the core issue that links the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline when considering the relations between India and Pakistan is the Kashmir issue. It is paramount to understand and acknowledge that the Pakistani sponsored terrorism is one of the deterrents for India to seriously consider and pursue with the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline. However, it is equally crucial for India not to forfeit the pipeline because it may potentially have political advantages. Whilst the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline can have India and Pakistan become interdependent, it is, for India, more important to ensure that India and Iran are interdependent because the gas pipeline may sway Iran’s stance on Kashmir to favor India. The dilemma however is that the gas pipeline is most likely to be implemented for logical reasons after the resolution of Kashmir, whilst at the same time the gas pipeline’s implementation would help India get support from Iran on the Kashmir issue. In fact, the India-Iran relations are also important for India’s geopolitical strength since it would counter-balance Pakistan’s rapport with Iran; hence Pakistan seems reluctant to see India and Iran as mutual allies. Though from India’s perspective, this is a political advantage, which must not be missed when the opportunity arises. India must also keep the pipeline alive because it may serve China’s geopolitical interests otherwise, by gaining more influence by strengthening a rapport with Iran and Pakistan, which would not be in India’s favor since India and China are rivals for matters related to overall geopolitical influence. To conclude this chapter, it is paramount to emphasize, that India’s current tactic of delaying the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline is wise and logical, however, India must not even seem to neglect the pipeline since it would give an upper-hand to India’s immediate geopolitical rivals.

Part Five: Conclusion: Looking Ahead and Summarizing

“There must be few other situations where there are eager purchasers of natural gas (India and Pakistan), willing suppliers for natural gas (Turkmenistan, Iran, Qatar, and Oman), and yet no pipeline.”223 Such a situation only exists when a situation in the given geopolitical arena is tense and potentially hostile, yet strongly interdependent and knitted. From India’s perspective, it is important to secure energy in order to strengthen the economic potential of the nation. As such, Talmiz Ahmad states that “Energy is the fuel that drives the economy and provides nations with the annual growth rates essential for their economic development.” India’s economic profile of a high development rate, which the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh predicts will continue at a steady rate224, is only possible if enough attention is paid on the consolidation of energy. It has been seen that India is in dire need for more energy, primarily gas since it is considered as a ‘clean fuel’. Fareed Zakaria225 expresses that “India’s private sector is the backbone of its growth”226, and for India to continue to support the private sector, it will need to provide efficient gas sources, especially for the industrial sector, and will also need to ensure that India is a safe place to invest in by securing the nation from terrorist attacks and hostilities from neighbors.

According to Talmiz Ahmad, transnational pipelines “have significant geopolitical implications and even the ability to influence bilateral relationships and regional cooperation scenarios.” However, unfortunately, South Asia is not prepared to have a transnational pipeline in the first place; on the contrary it is geopolitical and bilateral implications that are hindering the development of transnational pipelines. The Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline has been on the receiving end of strong political scrutiny from various angles of political and economic life. From India’s perspective, the bitter relations between Iran and America create a dilemma for India, which compels India to consider the interdependence with Iran for consistent and long-lasting source of gas as well as the opportunity to tap into the Central Asian energy market and have India’s geopolitical presence felt in the region against American ties with India that are based on prosperous trading and investments between the countries especially in areas of Information Technology, and a strengthening of ties with the implementation of the civil nuclear cooperation between India and America. India, for this reason, cannot submit to American pressures of foreign policy since not cooperating with Iran and Pakistan could greatly undermine India’s geopolitical efforts, yet at the same time openly supporting Iran is also detrimental to the vital ties of India with America. Hence, the ideal way of continuing such a dilemma is by, as Pant articulates, “India must find its own balance between its domestic political imperatives and its national strategic interests in shaping its policy towards Iran.”

Additionally, similar to the bitter relations of America and Iran, there are even more serious relationship problems between India and Pakistan, which could in fact be even a nuclear threat to the region. The focal tension between India and Pakistan has been because of the Kashmir crisis, which has led to the continuous military mobilization of the two countries, which has not only created skepticism in the minds of the two neighbors, but has also led for the emergence of Pakistani led terrorism in India. From India’s perspective, such a reason would be a primary reason to disqualify the prospects of implementing a pipeline project that makes India dependent on unstable Pakistani territory for energy supplies. Furthermore, India would also find it detrimental for her security interests to potentially support the defense budget of Pakistan through the transit fees of the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, for which reason the chances for India to support the pipeline seems rather unlikely. According to Parthasarathy227, “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held out a hand of reconciliation and friendship to Pakistan”.228 However, these hands of friendship were reciprocated with devious terrorist attacks like those seen in Mumbai in November 2008229. So despite the fact that an overland pipeline running through Pakistan into India from Iran is at least four times cheaper than any other available option230, the Indian government is still hesitant to pursue with the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline.

Interestingly however, the current neo-liberal global order and the paradigm of globalization have helped India to grow at the rate at which it has been growing economically. Yet at the same time has prompted India to consider a pipeline that faces a complex set of geopolitical relationships. For this reason, Nye’s and Keohane’s231 theory of “complex interdependence”232 plays a significant role in determining how India considers her relationships with other states. Neo-liberalism and globalization has therefore induced India to need to adjust to the international energy market, and at the same time integrate and collaborate with various state and non-state actors in order to be able to make informed and calculated decisions, which will further help India be a resilient country against energy shocks because of diversified energy supply sources. For this reason, not only strongly considering the pipeline has become a necessity for India.

Contrarily, there have been headlines on news websites such as “Peace pipeline without India?”233 Iran and Pakistan are currently considering building a pipeline from Iran to Pakistan, thereby excluding India from the pact. This, for readers would come as a shock because to expect a sensible power such as India to just exit from a distant opportunity such as the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline and face all the unfeasible repercussions of forfeiting the gas pipeline. Although such news articles focus, importantly so, on the fact that India, a strong diplomatic player in South Asian geopolitics, has missed several meetings234 related to the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline, they lack in helping readers understand the possibilities of the future. In fact, in 2007, there were news reports that stated that “It is apparent that New Delhi has been dumped”235 by Tehran and Islamabad respectively. However, a year later in 2008, there were more news reports that headlined “IPI pipeline fee dispute resolved”236 between India and Pakistan. Such a history is worth considering when speculating the near future of the gas pipeline in linkage to India. The point being made here is that India may use delaying tactics by not showing up to meetings, and thereby negotiate to limit her geopolitical influence in comparison to her neighbors, but after considering the above essay, it is safe enough to make courageous and strong statements and say that with such high stakes for India, it is simply impossible for her to abandon the trans-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

In conclusion, it is paramount for India to balance her position between the tensions that lie with America and Iran. At the same time, it is unfeasible for India to pursue with a pipeline when having strong tensions with Pakistan, an unstable nation. In a globalized context, the Indian government cannot abandon the trans-Pakistan pipeline since the geopolitical interdependence and influence that India would gain would be invaluable. At the same time, the faint possibility of the gas pipeline coming through India to serve the hunger for energy in India is a high enough stakes for India to remain interested in the pipeline. However, this very complex set of interdependence and at the same time the need for coercive implementations of security, has led India in a position where three options are possible. The first one; being, to work hard and implement the pipeline into action to suit energy needs and gain geopolitical strength in the region, but at the dissent of America. Whilst the second one being to abandon the pipeline to suit American foreign policy requirements, as Ariel Cohen237 suggests. Though it is only the third option, which is viable and most convenient for India, which is to continue to delay the gas pipeline project until the tensions between Iran and America iron out, and at the same time wait till the Kashmir issue is resolved with Pakistan. However, India must ensure that delays be done tactfully so that India is not even perceived as forfeiting the pipeline, and for this, attending meetings would be beneficial. Finally, to put it metaphorically, India must wait till the sown seeds of interdependence and synergy ripens before reaping the fruits.


Harsh Kothari is a student of University of the West of England, Bristol and a writer at Youth Ki Awaaz.

About The Author

YouthKiAwaaz.com is an award winning, India's largest online and mobile platform for young people to express themselves on issues of critical importance. This article has been written by a Youth Ki Awaaz Journalist/Contributor. You can submit an article too. Click here to write for Youth Ki Awaaz, or to submit a photo or a video.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

One Response

  1. BK Chowla

    It is a very complicated issue but I must say you have done a lot of home work.It is not very easy for anyone to answer this question simply.There are a lot of factors involved,countries are involved,security is a concern.However,I feel the world is becoming too small and practical.Necessaties will force both the countries to sort out their differences and get on with economic prosparity.

    Reply