The expected forthcoming visit of Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia to New Delhi assumes significance with India assuming the Presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20) for one year starting from December 2022.
For India, the G20 Presidency is a turning point for deepening global footprints and reassuring its commitment to shared peace and prosperity for the world order, especially highlighting environmental concerns.
At present, the question of sustainable development has come to centerstage in the world. Fossil fuel resources are depleting and fast becoming uneconomic for exploitation. The urgency of the present generation for ‘green development’, i.e., reducing carbon footprints while ensuring economic growth is also important to reckon with.
Although India and Saudi Arabia have been great partners in energy trade, the current thrust on green growth calls for enhancing collaboration among the countries of the world in conservation as well as green technology-based energy. There is a vast scope for Saudi Arabia- India cooperation in this area.
Energy consumption worldwide grew by 2.3 per cent in 2018, nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010 and now it is maintaining the same growth rate. If we keep burning fossil fuels at our current rate, it is generally estimated that all our fossil fuels will be depleted by 2060. And, if the world is trying to limit global warming to the ‘relatively’ safe level of 2oC by 2050, 80 per cent of coal, 50 per cent of gas and 30 per cent of oil reserves would be “un-burnable”. Along with this, as the oil availability will go down, its exploration and production would also be much costlier.
The issue of energy cooperation in this light, therefore, becomes extremely important. Saudi Arabia, is an important supplier of energy and India is an important consumer and so these could become an example of smooth transition to more efficient energy production and use. While India is trying to develop renewable energy, technology especially in solar power and wind energy, there is a lot of scope for cooperation between the two countries.
India is a key Asian refining hub, with an installed capacity of nearly 250 million tonnes per annum across 23 refineries, with plans to grow this to 400 mtpa by 2025. Being a major importer of Saudi oil, India had longstanding trade and energy cooperation with the country. Further, being one of the most populous and human resource-rich nations in the world, India offers an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to expand cooperation.
Saudi Arabia is also looking for new ways to enhance cooperation with India. Meeting the increasing global energy demand from green energy sources is challenging for the international community for several reasons. Saudi Arabia aims to generate 50per cent of its energy from clean sources by 2030. Last year, ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit, Riyadh pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2060, raising skepticism from environmental campaigners. Riyadh had very recently announced the launch of its first brand of electric vehicles, part of a broader push to diversify the economy from the world’s largest oil exporter.
Increased bilateral engagement could be seen from the fact that the Saudi Council of Ministers recently discussed a draft memorandum of understanding with India to cooperate in the fields of energy, is an indication of Riyadh’s eagerness to tap the Indian potential. Private partners of both countries are also looking for cooperation in new areas like renewable or alternative energy, etc. There have been billions of dollars of investment into the Indian electric vehicles segment, into storage, into batteries, and related areas.
In this regard, Saudi Arabia’s Tdafoq Energy Partners and India’s Delectrik Systems had signed a distribution and manufacturing agreement for Delectrik’s Vanadium Redox Flow Battery products in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Under the agreement, Tdafoq will also set up a flow battery manufacturing plant in the Kingdom, which will be scaled to one GWh capacity by 2025. Delectrik’s Vanadium Flow Batteries are designed to be used in residential, commercial, industrial and grid-scale stationary energy storage applications.
India has been a founding member of the International Solar Alliance and the country is committed to saving the world through this new frontier from climatic catastrophe. New Delhi has also been championing a global electricity grid plan, ‘One Sun One World One Grid, (OSOWOG) which seeks greater connectivity of solar power through trans-border cooperation, an innovative plan.
In the wake of accepting the G20 Presidency, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement defying the traditional frontiers of development. The encompassing statement is “Whilst our G20 priorities are in the process of being firmed up, ongoing conversations inter alia revolve around inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth; LiFE (Lifestyle For Environment); women’s empowerment; digital public infrastructure and tech-enabled development in areas ranging from health, agriculture and education to commerce, skill-mapping, culture and tourism; climate financing; circular economy; global food security; energy security; green hydrogen; disaster risk reduction and resilience; developmental cooperation; fight against economic crime; and multilateral reforms.”
As a believer in peaceful coexistence in the world as a family and excluding none (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam), India’s eminent position in South Asia and the world at large, inspires the world to have a collaborative approach to global progress instead of a competitive approach.
India’s G20 Presidency is well-timed and will go a long way in remarkably shaping the way the world is responding to the pressing challenges of the current situation. It is India’s responsibility that available resources be used for reaching uncharted territories to cope with the environmental challenges besides mitigating the impact of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict on energy prices.
India is currently undertaking the world’s largest energy transition and is running the largest clean energy programme, and is committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. Saudi-India cooperation in new fields would definitely go a long way in harbingering peaceful world development and economic prosperity.