1. About the Author. Professor Gulshan Dietl is an ICSSR Senior Fellow affiliated to the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. She retired as a Professor at the School of International Studies, JNU, where she also served as the Director of the Gulf Studies Programme and the Chairperson of the Centre for West Asian and African Studies. Her other publications include ‘The Dulles Era: America Enters West Asia’ (1985), ‘Through Two Wars and Beyond: A Study of the Gulf Cooperation Council’ (1991), ‘Saudi Arabia: People, Politics and Policies’ (2006), ‘Contemporary Saudi Arabia and the Emerging Indo-Saudi Relations’ (2007), and Democracy and Democratization in the Gulf’ (2010). Her areas of research include international relations, foreign policies, domestic developments, and security issues in the Gulf and West Asia with special reference to democratisation, political Islam and energy. Her vast experience in the subject matter suitably qualifies her to write on the complexities of gas pipelines around the world, including its implications on India’s energy security.
2. About the Book. This book is the first full-length study on energy that Ms. Gulshan has undertaken to date. The author in her research, has cogently examined the four major gas producers – Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Qatar and has illustrated the associative geographic relation in the distribution of the gas reserves from Qatar to Iran to Russia and now to the Mediterranean, where recent discovery of gas has been made. The book also carefully examines the various transnational pipeline projects originating from these countries, including the ones that were dead at birth, reasons for which have been discussed in details in the book. The author further delves on the various elements necessitated for the successful operation of these pipelines; from a committed investor to the domestic politics, and most importantly, the relations between the exporting, transiting and the importing countries involved in a project. By undertaking a systematic investigation, the author has clearly brought to the fore, the politics played by countries in their pursuit of uninterrupted energy. The discussions in the book are simple and very easy to interpret for any student of geopolitics and energy, and not merely for experts.
3. The book comprises of 213 pages, divided into three parts comprising of six chapters. Part I discusses the early discoveries of natural gas and its composition, highlighting its position in comparison to the other two fossil fuels in the energy basket. Part II expounds upon the geography, spread of the gas reserves and the pipeline projects of Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan, including a detailed analysis of geopolitics and strategy of these three important gas-exporting countries. The concluding part is about India where the author picks up the leads from the previous chapters and proposes a way ahead, keeping in mind the size, population, economy and the aspirations that the country has. Each chapter is factually relevant, lucid and a separate read in itself. The Notes to Chapters, Bibliography and Index are clear, well written and properly laid out.
4. The book begins with the statement of the problem that the gas pipelines which constitute an important aspect of strategic geography today, deserve a much closer look than what can be comprehended. The share of the natural gas, considered as the fuel of the 21st century, is continuously going up in the global energy basket. Presently, more than 90 percent of the gas produced worldwide and three-quarters of gas traded is distributed by pipelines. Incidentally, a gas pipeline is much more prone to political influences compared to oil, since gas is traded bilaterally and multilaterally between nations, and has no equivalent body like OPEC.
5. The book further states that the control or access to the resources of the planet forms an important aspect of geopolitics. Gas pipelines are one of the most coveted objects of the geopolitics since their value is three-fold: for the commodity they contain, as the containers of that commodity and as the carriers of the commodity. Therefore, natural gas which flows through international and intercontinental pipelines must necessarily be looked at from a global viewpoint.
6. The existing gas markets are elaborately discussed by the author, and how they are currently evolving from regional to global markets due to technological advancements and the interaction between supply and demand chains. Various stakeholders which make up the entire ambit of the gas world including the states, energy firms, scientists, engineers, investors, and bankers, further complicate the entire process due to multifarious intricacies involved. Till date, neither the gas sellers or the gas buyers have been able to come together to form an ‘exporters’ or buyers’ cartel, akin to OPEC, the reasons for which the author clearly discusses in the book.
7. The book exemplifies that out of all the available options for transporting gas, pipelines and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) are the most widely used. However, pipelines will be the most convenient and economical way to transport gas overland in the foreseeable future, even though LNG technology is improving rapidly. The book also brings out an important observation that all gas deals are long-term bilateral contracts with a take-or-pay clause, which means the buyers are obligated to pay for the gas whether they take it or not. Since gas is not yet a fungible source of energy, the pipeline delivery ties the producers and the consumers in a long-term interdependence, reinforcing regional alliances. Therefore, the rigidity of bilaterally agreed to gas prices leave very little room for the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) to influence gas production and prices.
8. The chapter on Iran underlines the geopolitical and economic importance of the Caspian Sea, and how it plays an important role for all the five bordering nations. Even though Iran has the largest gas reserves, the political and security situation, disputes with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, sanctions imposed by the US, UN and the European Union coupled with lack of technological upgradation and poor investments have resulted in several unexplored gas fields and lower production. Although Iran-Armenia pipeline is a success story and functional since 2009, the Iran-Turkey pipeline described as the ‘Phantom Pipeline’ and operating since 2001, has faced significant US resistance as it was a clear violation of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act by Turkey. The Iran-Oman pipeline is another project that faces pressure from the neighbouring Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Discussing the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon pipeline, the author further argues that Iran can emerge as a major player in the gas market if the sanctions on Iran are removed.
9. Russia with the second largest gas reserves is the major supplier to Europe and has even started making forays into the Chinese market. The author illustrates Russia’s aggressive posture vis-a-vis Ukraine, Georgia, and Chechnya which has affected its energy strategy. Out of the nine major pipelines in Russia, seven are export pipelines and the country has to face a lot of political challenges to export gas through these pipelines. The Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany functioning since the end of 2012, faced protests from some of the EU members since it sidestepped other EU countries. Similarly, the South Stream pipeline faced challenges when Bulgaria retreated under the EU pressure. The project was later rechristened as the Turkish Pipeline Project. However, the deterioration of political and security situation in Syria and shooting down of a Russian fighter plane by Turkey in Nov 15, has put a question mark on the project. China is one of Russia’s important gas buyers after having inked two huge gas deals in May 14, and therefore, this opens up the Asia-Pacific market for Russia for the first time.
10. Turkmenistan, on the other hand, being a landlocked country, has maintained the policy of selling gas to Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries at its border. The gas from Russia does not flow through the Ukraine-Russia-Turkmen pipeline anymore due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine. However, gas supplies from Turkmenistan to Russia resumed in 2010. The Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline having three parallel lines and starting at Turkmen-Uzbek border is the longest line in the world stretching 7000 km. The third line became operational in Jun 14. The author observes that China does not want Turkmen gas to reach Europe, as Turkmenistan would eventually demand the European price from China as well. At the same time, Russia also does not want to lose its market share in Europe to Turkmenistan. Therefore, in the present circumstances, Turkmenistan remains totally reliant on the Chinese route for the passage of its gas till the routes to Turkey and India open and perform.
11. The final section on India articulates the fact that India, despite being surrounded by gas-rich countries such as Myanmar and Bangladesh and its extended neighbourhood in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, does not have a single gas pipeline transiting through its territory till date. Since the country is set on a high economic growth with a scarcity of indigenous supply of hydrocarbons, energy security constitutes a high quotient in its overall security calculus. Though the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project is already under construction, while concluding, the author proposes the possibilities for India to buy gas through pipelines from different sources in its neighbourhood and beyond with due caution, towards ensuring energy security.
12. With her vast knowledge and arrayed research on the subject matter, Ms. Gulshan’s writing offers the most succinct and contemporary assessment of this element of energy security. In conclusion, the author argues that while the gas pipeline is a result of an agreement between two or more parties, it also reflects a relative power balance between the countries involved. This book is a significant contribution to the study of global politics of gas pipelines and is a useful read for the students, scholars, and policymakers interested to understand the global politics, competition and security involving the gas pipelines.