It is no surprise that piracy has steadily climbed up the ranks of threats to India’s security, given India’s energy trade with the Middle East. But now, with vast untapped oil reserves reported in Somalia and just off its coast, piracy emanating from the Horn of Africa is impinging on India’s future energy sourcing opportunities as well.
Further complicating India’s plans for the region is the nexus between Somali pirates and the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab, which still has a significant presence in central Somalia and provides sanctuary to pirate fleets operating out of the central Somali city of Harardhere in return for a share of the bounty. If left unchecked, al-Shabab may also become capable of threatening various connectivity projects India is building in the region. As a result, India is likely to coordinate with Somalia’s neighbors and the United States in the effort to contain the group’s virulent jihadism and stabilize the area.
In January, the Canadian wildcat firm Africa Oil began drilling in Somalia, marking the country’s first new oil development project in 21 years. The company, which reportedly made strikes in Puntland, stated that that there could be reserves of up to 4 billion barrels, worth close to $500 billion at current prices, in its two drilling blocks alone. This would be consistent with various estimates over the years putting Somalia’s oil reserves both onshore and offshore in the range of 110 billion barrels. Add to this the natural gas reserves estimated at more than 100 trillion cubic feet that have been found off the West African coastline, and a picture of Somalia’s potential hydrocarbon prospects begins to emerge.