Asia's Quest for Energy Security

By Sanjaya Baru
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Both China and India will seek to impress upon the US that any action against Iran aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons should not be at the expense of economic growth and energy security in Asia. Given the stake that both the US and Europe have in stabilizing and sustaining global growth, their policies should be aimed at ensuring that China, India, and other newly industrializing Asian economies can take up the slack created by the slowdown in OECD economies.

So, even as Prime Minister Wen travels west, the West must travel east. A trilateral initiative by the US, China, and India in the Gulf, aimed at facilitating a resolution of historic problems in the region, would benefit global growth and stability. As the region's biggest and most influential country, Saudi Arabia could play a positive role by inviting the US and Asia's two giants to work jointly towards a peaceful resolution of the Iran problem.

While Russia has its interests in the region, it has little or no stake in arresting the rise in oil prices that instability in the Gulf would trigger. China and India, on the other hand, would be badly affected by another surge in oil prices.

India can ill afford a further economic slowdown, with GDP growth this year forecast to fall to 7.5%, compared to the five-year average of 9% in 2003-08, while inflation remains high, partly owing to rising energy prices. Deepening malaise there and in China would disrupt global growth at a time when Europe remains mired in crisis.

The US, too, cannot afford military conflict in the Gulf, given its need to shore up the domestic foundations of its economic power. As a result, the time is ripe for fresh ideas and innovative initiatives aimed at addressing Asia's energy-security concerns in the Middle East. I

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Increasingly, those ideas and initiatives will come from Asia itself.

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