Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan. (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan. (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

Energy has become a positive tool for diplomacy: Dharmendra Pradhan

  • Increasing domestic oil and gas production will be the government’s priority, says Pradhan
  • Pradhan assumed office against the backdrop of tightening US sanctions against Iran, and production curbs by the OPEC, which drove oil prices

NEW DELHI : Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday said that energy has emerged as a positive tool for diplomacy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the voice for the consumers, the world over.

After taking charge of the petroleum and natural gas ministry, Pradhan said the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had undertaken various energy initiatives to tilt the trade balance in India’s favour.

“Energy has become an international diplomacy handle, and many countries look towards India. Shri Narendra Modi is seen as a spokesperson for the world’s consumers, and this has been acknowledged by the world," he said, adding that increasing domestic oil and gas production will be the government’s priority.

In his previous stint, Modi had called for a global consensus on “responsible pricing", which balances the interests of the producers and the consumers. India’s worry over crude oil prices stems from its energy needs being primarily met through imports.

Last October, Modi had sought a review of the payment terms with major oil producers during his meeting with top executives of global oil companies and experts from the energy sector.

Indian energy firms have invested around $38 billion to buy equity energy stakes in 28 countries, including Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria and Russia.

Pradhan assumed office amid tightening US sanctions against Iran, and production curbs by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), which have driven up oil prices.

Since India imports more than 80% of its oil requirements and around 18% of natural gas, higher energy prices stoke inflation and hurt the country’s economic growth.

Pradhan is closely following the vexed issue of crude oil purchases from Iran, and has been in close contact with Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid Al-Falih to help meet India’s energy requirements.

India had kept its option open to purchase oil from Iran, with former foreign minister Sushma Swaraj informing her visiting Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, that New Delhi will take a decision after the national elections. India was among Iran’s top oil customers with imports of 23.5 million tonnes in 2018-19.

Under the direct watch of the soft-spoken Rajya Sabha MP, the NDA government had launched its flagship, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, to provide free cooking gas connections to poor families.

Pradhan will also be responsible for the steel ministry.