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India scouts for oil near borders

business Updated: Sep 19, 2012 02:01 IST
Anupama Airy
Anupama Airy
Hindustan Times
Anupama Airy

India is making all out efforts to get a toehold in most oil and gas exploration blocks on borders with neighbours such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Given the strategic importance of these blocks, New Delhi has begun parleys with top officials of these countries to get allotment of these blocks on nomination basis.

Under discussion are blocks close to the Indo-Myanmar border along Mizoram and Manipur, and offshore blocks in Sri Lanka's Mannar and Cauvery basins situated close to Indian shores.

Talks were also held with Thailand last week to speed up work on the proposed economic corridor that will link India with Thailand and Southeast Asia for better connectivity and infrastructure development.

"You would appreciate that this is a unique opportunity in our quest for energy security that needs to be leveraged," said a recent note from the ministry of external affairs to the petroleum ministry.

"While our companies are involved in oil exploration and exploitation in different parts of the world, it is in our immediate neighbourhood that the advantages we enjoy of proximity, security and leverage are the greatest."

In case of Sri Lanka, the note said efforts should be made to get blocks on nomination basis.

A senior petroleum ministry official said the ministry of external affairs and the ambassadors in these countries have been giving inputs on E&P blocks in neighbouring countries.

In Myanmar, about 23 blocks are likely to be on offer including nine that were open for bidding in the last round but did not find good takers.

The petroleum ministry has also been informed by MEA that there is a fair chance of discovery in these blocks, so it is important that India does not let these blocks fall to third country interests.

Myanmar is expected to call for bids for some offshore blocks sometime later this year. An internal MEA note said that given the rapidly changing political, social and economic environment in Myanmar, many international oil majors are expected to enter the fray.

"The new round of bidding provides a fresh opportunity for Indian companies to make deeper inroads into the oil and gas sector in Myanmar... especially for those (blocks) which are close to the Indian border and have good prospects of discovery," the note said.