Mumbai/Bengaluru: In what will help expand India’s coal bed methane (CBM) sector, the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday approved exploration and production from areas allotted to state-run Coal India Ltd (CIL)—the world’s largest coal miner—and its subsidiaries.

The decision will help India’s natural gas production and reduce the demand-supply gap in the country. It comes in the backdrop of India putting in place a new energy architecture, with CIL’s diversification drive focusing on setting up coal-to-methanol projects and coal gasification projects.

India has been pushing for a gas-based economy. As the world’s fourth-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer, it has been trying to leverage the glut in global LNG supplies to renegotiate its contracts. India imported 19 million metric tonnes of LNG in 2016-17 to meet its domestic demand.

In another decision, the cabinet gave its approval to a preliminary pact between India and the UK on the return of illegal migrants—seen as a major bone of contention between the two countries.

“The MoU (memorandum of understanding) will facilitate visa-free entry for holders of diplomatic passports as well as liberalization of the UK visa regime for those who are travelling to the UK legally," a government statement issued on Wednesday said. “It will ensure the return of persons who have no lawful basis to be in the territory of the other party after verification of nationality to its satisfaction," the statement added.

“It will help in streamlining the procedure of return of nationals who are caught staying illegally... in a specified time frame," it added without giving details about the time frame.

According to a person familiar with the development, India will commit to verifying —within a specific time frame —whether people identified as illegal Indians are actually its nationals or not. “Most times people identified as Indians are actually not Indians but South Asians," said the person, who did not wish to be named.

“We have not been told how many Indian nationals are in the UK without relevant papers but the UK Home Office says the number is in the thousands. Our point is that the question of illegal migration should not stand in the way of the UK giving visas to genuine Indian travellers, businessmen etc.," the person added.

Close