India, Myanmar to boost cooperation in oil and gas

Wednesday, 22 January 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India and Myanmar will increase cooperation in the hydroelectric power and energy sectors, particularly the exploration of Myanmar's onshore oil and gas reserves.

An Indian team will soon visit Myanmar to explore the prospects in exploiting onshore hydrocarbon reserves, external affairs ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said here Tuesday.

Another Indian team will visit that country to examine the construction of a hydroelectric project on the Taimanti river, he said.

Closer cooperation in the hydroelectric and energy sectors as well as joint construction of roads and collaboration in regional bodies figured in discussions on Monday between Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha and visiting Myanmar Foreign Minister U Win Aung.

Aung is the first Myanmarese foreign minister to visit India since 1987.

Two Indian energy majors, ONGC Videsh Limited and GAIL India Limited, hold joint equity stakes with Korea's Daewoo International and Korean Gas Company in the A-1 offshore block off Myanmar's Rakhine coast. The bloc has gas reserves of 32 trillion cubic feet.

"The discussions between the two leaders stressed on bilateral economic relations and ongoing economic cooperation," Sarna said. The two sides agreed to strengthen their cooperation in BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand - Economic Cooperation).

Sinha and Aung also discussed bilateral political relations and international issues, including the situation in Iraq, the spokesman said. The two sides signed a protocol on regular foreign office consultations.

"The trilateral road project linking India, Myanmar and Thailand was also discussed," Sarna said.

"Myanmar has expressed an interest in cooperating in the IT sector," he said.

Myanmar has invited Indian companies in the IT sector to invest in the neighbouring country with several opportunities opening up.

The issue of anti-India insurgent groups operating in Myanmar also figured in the discussions, with Aung assuring Sinha that Yangon would not allow its territory to be used by any group that would harm New Delhi's interests, Sarna said.

India has shed its initial reservations to engage Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SDPC) in recent years and Yangon had responded with enthusiasm.

This has paid rich dividends for both countries. Myanmarese security forces have time and again carried out operations against insurgents from India's northeastern states operating from that country's territory.

Bilateral trade has grown from $87.4 million in 1990-91 to $323.43 million in 2001-02. India's exports were worth $ 37.57 million and imports worth $ 285.86 million.

Aung is also scheduled to visit Hyderabad to apprise Indian IT companies of prospects for investment in Myanmar.
Source: IANS
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