Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, India's friend in OPEC, passes away

PTI | | Updated on: Jul 06, 2022
Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo

Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo | Photo Credit: KAMAL NARANG

He was due to step down at the end of this month after six years in the top job at OPEC

Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, the secretary-general of OPEC who died on Wednesday, was a friend of India who believed that sustained healthy economic growth and prosperity of the country was in the interest of the Saudi-led oil cartel.

Barkindo, 63, died in his home country of Nigeria, OPEC said in a statement without giving reasons for his death.

He was due to step down at the end of this month after six years in the top job at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Hours before his death, he met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and spoke at an energy summit in Abuja where he stated that the oil and gas industry is "under siege" due to years of under-investment and oil from Iran and Venezuela could help address the market's current tight supply.

Just like the rest of the world, India too has issues with the tight production controls by the OPEC which had led to soaring energy prices and inflation, but Barkindo was always sympathetic to New Delhi's concerns and repeatedly assured for meeting full demand of the nation.

Being the OPEC leader who visited India the most number of times, he developed a personal bond with Dharmendra Pradhan, who till a year back was the Oil Minister.

"The passing away HE Dr. Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo is a great loss to the global energy community," Pradhan tweeted Wednesday."

A proponent of stable oil markets, he was a friend of India and also a personal friend. Saddened by his untimely demise. Sincere condolences to his family and the OPEC fraternity."

Barkindo wasn't just enarmed by the world's third-largest oil market but also the pace of reforms that India was undertaking.

"India's economy has been experiencing some of the greatest structural changes in a generation. A slate of bold new reforms, embarked upon under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Modi, has put the country firmly on a sustainable dynamic growth path - particularly when it comes to energy," he had stated at a conference in New Delhi in October 2017.

Demonetisation policy, the goods and services tax (GST), and efforts to diversify the energy mix would aid the country toward sustainable growth and stability, he had said.

As he navigated the oil cartel through a turbulent oil market period, he initiated OPEC-India Energy Dialogue.

In October 2018, he stated that OPEC is in a 'catholic marriage' with India. The two, he believed, were in the same boat, with the former accounting for a bulk of the total demand and the latter being the biggest producer.

"OPEC has a vested interest in the sustained healthy economic growth and prosperity of India," he had remarked at a conference in New Delhi in 2017.

And while India on multiple occasions pressed OPEC nations to lift production caps to ease prices, Barkindo always gave a sympathetic hearing and assured of no supply disruptions and meeting the country's full energy requirement.

A regular feature at top energy conferences in India, he last participated in the October 2021 edition of India Energy Forum by CERAWeek through videoconference.

He also attended the global energy leaders meet that Prime Minister hosted on the sidelines of that conference.

In April 2018, he visited India's oldest oil refinery at Digboi in Assam and the first oil well in the remote northeastern corner of the country—a visit that OPEC in a statement described as a "pilgrimage tour".

"A dream fulfilled," Barkindo had said during the tour to India's first oil well No. 1 spudded in September 1889 in Digboi.

OPEC in its statement on Wednesday described Barkindo as "an OPEC icon, a dear friend to many."

"Throughout HE Barkindo's long career, there have been several central themes that have driven him: an infectious passion for the petroleum industry; an unwavering belief in oil's poverty eradicating potential; a steadfast commitment to sustainable development; the importance of dialogue and multilateralism; and, most fundamentally of all, treating everyone with respect and kindness," it said.

As OPEC Secretary-General, a position he assumed on August 1, 2016, he navigated the grouping through two major industry downturns (2015-2016 and 2020-2021) and was instrumental in aligning the organisation with non-OPEC producers like Russia.

"Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation," the OPEC statement quoted from Barkindo's favourite scribes, the famous poet, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.

Published on July 06, 2022
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