Describing the Mumbai terrorist strikes as a direct attack on Indian's economic development, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said the energy sector could increasingly become a target for sabotage and urged the industry to ensure safety and security of infrastructure.
"This unpardonable criminal attack only underscores the risk all countries face from economic sabotage, irrespective of whether these acts are authored by states or merely carried out by so-called non-state actors," Mukherjee said, referring to the November 26-29 Mumbai carnage.
He was speaking at the inauguration of Petrotech 2009, the eighth international oil and gas exhibition in New Delhi.
Mukherjee pointed out that the global hydrocarbons sector "would increasingly be even more vulnerable to such threats".
"Energy Security concerns are central to our national interest and an important aspect of our economic diplomacy," he added.
He also said efforts to protect these assets had to be a global undertaking, rather than of individual countries.
"Protecting these assets would not simply be a law and order problem for an individual country, whether an energy exporter or consumer. Stability of energy supplies, security of energy transportation and creation of new energy infrastructure and its protection has to be a common goal requiring coordination and cooperation of all countries," he said.
Therefore, he said, members of the industry had to give more attention to safety and security of oil and gas installations and their transport infrastructure.
Mukherjee also referred to the oil prices which "were on a roller coaster in 2008", adding that he expected international fuel prices to go up as the global economy improves.
"As I am not an astrologer in such matters, I shall not guess the route oil prices will take from in New Delhi. What can, nevertheless, be said with a sense of surety is that, in the long run, this acute volatility in oil prices will profit neither the producer nor comfort the seller," he said.
Referring to the theme of the conference, "Energy Independence with Global Cooperation", he noted that there was limited gain in taking an exclusivist, zero-sum game approach on energy issues.
The minister said that there was need to "renew the global energy architecture by developing an arrangement that incorporates long-term supply and demand side concerns. A new cooperative framework, based on dialogue and transparent exchange of data that ensures an open, transparent, competitive and stable market ought to emerge".
Mukherjee said the Indian economy will grow at seven percent "notwithstanding the global economic gloom", and added that the country was confident of coping with external shocks and sustaining the India growth story.
He said the main challenge was to ensure the "continuous availability of safe, clean and accessible energy at commercially competitive prices".