Excerpted from the original op-ed, “A Crucial Connection,” by Michael Kugelman in The Times of India
With India’s soaring growth and rising global clout hogging media headlines, it is easy to forget the nation is beset by security challenges. Naxalite insurgency
rages across more than two-thirds of India’s states, while long-simmering tensions in Jammu and Kashmir
exploded once again this summer. Meanwhile, two years post-Mumbai, Pakistan
remains unwilling or unable to dismantle the anti-India militant groups on its soil. Finally, China’s military rise continues unabated. As Beijing increases its activities
across the Himalayan
and Indian Ocean regions, fears about Chinese encirclement are rife.
It is even easier to forget that these challenges are intertwined with natural resource issues. Policy makers in New Delhi often fail to make this connection, at their own peril. Twenty-five per cent of Indians lack access to clean drinking water; about 40 per cent have no electricity. These constraints intensify security problems.
India’s immense energy needs – household and commercial – have deepened its dependence on coal, its most heavily consumed energy source. But India’s main coal reserves are located in Naxalite bastions. With energy security at stake, New Delhi has a powerful incentive to flush out insurgents. It has done so with heavy-handed shows of force that often trigger civilian casualties. Additionally, intensive coal mining has displaced locals and created toxic living conditions for those who remain. All these outcomes boost support for the insurgency.
Meanwhile, the fruits of this heavy resource extraction elude local communities, fuelling grievances that Naxalites exploit. A similar dynamic plays out in Jammu and Kashmir, where electricity-deficient residents decry the paltry proportion of power they receive from central government-owned hydroelectric companies. In both cases, resource inequities are a spark for violent anti-government fervor.
Continue reading on The Times of India.
For more on India’s Naxalite rebellion and its natural resource drivers, see The New Security Beat’s “India’s Maoists: South Asia’s ‘Other’ Insurgency.”
Michael Kugelman is program associate with the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Photo Credit: “Mysore Coal Man,” courtesy of flickr user AdamCohn.