India will permit Russian companies take stakes in Indian refineries in exchange for greater opportunities to invest in Russia's oil and gas sector, Indian Petroleum Minister Murli Deora told his counterpart in Moscow on October 30.
"We've invited the Russian government to let Russian companies participate in downstream projects in India," Deora said after meeting with Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko.
He added that possibilities were being explored to inject Russian expertise and finance into the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project as well.
India hopes for greater cooperation with Russia's two state-owned gas and oil giants, Gazprom and Rosneft, he said.
One idea, which Deora said that India is proposing, is to create an Indian-Russian joint venture to explore and develop Russian oil and gas resources, along the same lines as a deal signed last week between Rosneft and China's CNPC.
Under that deal, Rosneft will hold 51 per cent of the new company, called Vostok Energy, while CNPC will have a 49 per cent stake.
Specifically, India wants to get involved in the giant Sakhalin-3 oilfield, on Russia's Pacific coast, which has yet to be offered to foreign partners.
India's ONGC Videsh Ltd. already holds a 20 per cent stake, worth $ 2.2 billion, in the huge Sakhalin-1 project, which began shipping oil in mid-October.
Another project, Sakhalin-2, which is headed by Royal Dutch Shell, has run into ecological controversies that caused the Russian Natural Resources Ministry to suspend its environmental operating license in September, but Deora insisted no such difficulties are facing Sakhalin-1.
Russian Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said on Sunday that an environmental probe of the Sakhalin-1 project has been delayed, while the ministry deals with the allegations of massive ecological violations on Sakhalin-2.
"I don't think we can work on two such large projects at the same time," Trutnev said.
Deora said he had not heard anything about any allegations of environmental problems on Sakhalin Island, and "can't comment on something I'm unsure of".
He added that he's invited Khristenko to come to India in early December to join Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a special ceremony when the first oil tanker carrying oil from Sakhalin-1 arrives at the Indian terminal of Mangalore.
Deora was slated to meet chiefs of Gazprom and Rosneft in Moscow on October 31.