Belt and Road Initiative for China's Energy Security: Exploring Energy Dimension of the BRI and its Implications for India

Ms. Priyanshi Chauhan

As the world’s largest consumer of energy, China is experiencing rising energy demand and consequently increasing reliance on energy imports. Simultaneously, China is facing the challenge of diversifying its fuel suppliers and ensuring security of its transit routes, particularly through the Straits of Malacca in the Indian Ocean. In this context, the paper argues that China has not only prioritised ensuring a continuous supply of energy, but also recognised the need to diversify its sources of energy imports and create new routes for energy trade; and BRI is one such attempt by China to enhance its energy security which has created strategic, economic and security concerns for India. The objective is to investigate the energy dimension of the BRI, its consequent implications for India’s energy security and its economic, geopolitical and strategic concerns, and explore policy options that India should pursue.
The paper undertakes quantitative assessment and comparative analysis of energy trade for India and China for variables including energy demand, region-wise fuel imports, oil transit routes and proposed BRI routes, and identifies linkages with India’s energy security. Key sources consist of database and reports from international organisations and national governments including World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Integrated Trade Solutions, ASEAN and SAARC among others. Further, India’s policy options are explored with focus on identifying rationale, scope, opportunities and barriers for the suggested measures.
Based on this, the paper finds significant overlaps of the maritime and land based corridors in the BRI with the existing energy transit routes for China covering all its major energy exporters. This has significant bearing for India owing to the competition for same energy resources, and balance of power in South Asian and the Indian Ocean region. For policy measures, the paper identifies opportunities for energy cooperation in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa, and also explores prospects of energy cooperation with China.