III. Policy recommendations and conclusion

Key findings and policy recommendations

Key findings

One of the key findings of this book relates to an understanding of the various interconnected issues that have been broadly categorised within contemporary literature as ‘political challenges’ to regional energy cooperation. Despite the prevalence of literature that perceives the India—Pakistan conflict as the crux of political challenges, the findings of the book point towards a more complex array of political impediments that include the failure of political leadership in multiple realms such as communication, governance and cost—benefit analysis. The study also reveals that common diagnoses of political challenges, such as ‘resource nationalism’ and ‘historical grievances’ are symptoms that arise from ideational factors such as conflated identities, misconstrued perceptions of resources and particular conceptions of security. Overcoming these challenges would require political leadership at high as well as grass-roots levels, investment in the planning of energy' projects and the acceptance of international standards.

Within contemporary literature, security issues, which are often inextricably linked to political challenges, have been described as one of the primary threats to energy cooperation. These security issues are perceived as threats to the physical security of energy infrastructure from terrorist groups and deliberate disruptions of energy' flows resulting from geopolitical conflicts. The findings reveal that the solutions to these security challenges are greatly constrained by considering the interests of a limited number of stakeholders, which results in energy being perceived from a defence and strategic angle. The book proposes that energy projects should be planned to create convergences in interests among both active stakeholders (state actors and institutions) and passive stakeholders (community members). Such an approach can result in the collective mitigation of security threats, reduce political tensions and ensure that the human rights of populations that reside near international borders are respected.

Literature has generally not taken into account the environmental conflicts that may arise as a result of the implementation of proposed multilateral energy' projects in South Asia. The analysis of the book has revealed that bilateral energy projects have resulted in significant environmental conflicts and these existing issues are expected to be magnified in the case of three or four country projects. In addition, there is a significant link between environmental conflicts and historical political disputes in the region, which signifies the potential role of ecological cooperation in conflict resolution. The book has argued that addressing the environmental challenges to multilateral energy projects through an acceptance of collective security principles can enhance the viability of the proposed projects and reduce regional political tensions.

While the political, security and environmental challenges to regional energy cooperation are daunting, the book has found that leadership and proper planning can mitigate most of these issues. In addition, the book has established a link between energy cooperation and regional peacebuilding. The case study in Chapter 8 has demonstrated that if certain policies are put in place, the TAPI pipeline can increase the incentive for peaceful resolution of political disputes by increasing the cost of conflict. In Chapters 9 and 10 the case studies on the proposed hydroelectric projects in South Asia have established that if energy projects meet certain standards regarding environmental protection, they can greatly enhance the prospects of regional integration.

While I acknowledge that this has been mentioned previously, I must reiterate that the findings point towards the need to address issues such as resettlement, loss of livelihoods and human rights violations that may impact local communities as a result of the construction of multilateral energy projects. The book has demonstrated through historical examples that incremental costs can undermine multilateral energy cooperation if socio-economic and environmental issues are not assigned due importance at initial stages of planning.

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