Oil is the single largest item in India’s import bill as India relies on imports for over 80% of its oil requirement. The annual import of 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil makes India vulnerable to sharp spikes in energy prices. With limited domestic reserves, India has tried to reduce its vulnerability by investing in oil and gas fields overseas. State-owned oil companies have over 50 overseas investments spread across South America, Africa, West Asia and the former-Soviet Union, all of which have large oil reserves. Investments must be made where the oil is, and often, these tend to be volatile regions. Political volatility in some places like Venezuela, Iran and Sudan/South-Sudan, for example, has led to trouble for a few of India’s investments. The purpose of investing as protection against price fluctuations gets defeated when geopolitical or other unrest leads to oil production reduction.
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Amit Bhandari is Fellow, Energy & Environment Studies Programme, Gateway House.
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