No timeframe for negotiation and talks to conclude

Our Bureau

New Delhi, March 24

The Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr Anand Sharma, has said that India is still awaiting a favourable response from Bangladesh on joining a proposed pipeline for transportation and import of natural gas from Myanmar.

"We can only hope that they will see the collective benefit of the project," he told newspersons on the sidelines of the Indian Oil and Gas Conference organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) on Thursday.

"We will continue to pursue the talks with them," he said, adding that no timeframe could be put for negotiation and talks to conclude.

"There has been pressure from Myanmar for an early Indian decision on how the gas would be transported to India."

Earlier, in his address he said that India was vigorously pursuing gas pipeline projects on its eastern and western land frontiers.

Other pipeline projects

Besides the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project under discussion, the Government is also looking at a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline, initially as an observer. Last year Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India, signed a pact for a gas pipeline project to meet the country's gas needs.

Moreover, India is scouting for oil and gas assets in Central Asia, Africa, and South America.

Buying binge

With domestic oil production barely meeting 27 per cent of the demand, the country has been on a buying binge.

Talks are on to acquire oil assets in Bangladesh, Brazil, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Myanmar, Sierra Leone, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Yemen.

On domestic production, he said that it was likely to rise from 26 million tonnes now to 52 mt in 2011-12 and 80 mt in 2024-25.

But the demand for oil was expected to increase from 122 mt to 196 mt in 2011-12, and 364 mt in 2024-25. Mr Sharma said that natural gas availability was 83 million standard cubic meters a day (MSCMD) against the demand of 155 MSCMD.

The Planning Commission feels that overseas State-owned entities such as ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) should be given greater financial autonomy for more transparent functioning in the acquisition of assets. There are several options, but the ideal situation is that more financial muscle should be given to overseas entities, Dr Kirit Parikh, Member Planning Commission, told newspersons on the sidelines of the conference. He added that acquiring assets out of their own balance sheets would allow these entities to take loans from financial institutes.

This would ensure that there is someone to assess their overseas proposals.

If someone were giving a loan, they would give a neutral assessment of the investment proposal and make the process more transparent, he said.

Related Stories:
India committed to Iran pipeline project: Deora
Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline talks to go trilateral

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 25, 2006)
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