India set to engage Myanmar to try and snag more gas supply

India set to engage Myanmar to try and snag more gas supply

Looking to tap hydrocarbon discoveries in that country, Union petroleum minister Murli Deora will begin an official visit to Myanmar from 23 September for bilateral discussions. “The minister will be there to witness the production sharing contract (PSC) signing between the ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) and the Myanmar government for taking stakes in three Rakhine offshore deepwater blocks. He will also hold talks with his energy counterpart there," said a senior petroleum ministry official who did not wish to be identified.

Myanmar’s repressive military junta is currently in the middle of a sustained campaign to crush the country’s most sustained protests in a decade, mostly by monks.

India, which shares a border with Myanmar, has been questioned before by international diplomats about its connections with the country.

Earlier this month, Union external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee was sharply questioned by the US Ambassador to Thailand and a British diplomat at a meeting in Bangkok about what India was doing to help bring about genuine democracy in Myanmar.

Mukherjee reiterated India’s policy of non-interference in internal matters and said it is “for the people of the country to decide what form of arrangement they want." Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962.

Meanwhile, Deora will also try to resolve the issue of gas evacuation from OVL and Gas Authority of India Ltd shares in the A1 and A3 blocks in Myanmar. Even though the companies together hold 30% stake in the blocks, the Myanmar government had recently decided that the gas from A1 and A3 blocks would be sold to China through a pipeline. India is likely to try and lobby for a reversal of that decision.

The Chinese have a significant presence in Myanmar’s hydrocarbon sector and some experts partially attribute this to a failure on part of the Indian government to actively engage its neighbour, both politically and economically.

Deora will also urge the Myanmar government to award more hydrocarbon exploration and production blocks to the Indian entities.

Other items on the agenda include diesel exports from Numaligarh refinery to Myanmar and training of its engineers by Indian public sector units across the hydrocarbon value chain. Dinsha Patel, minister of state for petroleum and natural gas, had recently informed the Rajya Sabha that in order to achieve energy security for the country, India will continue to make efforts for import of natural gas or liquefied natural gas (LNG) from all possible sources, including Myanmar.

Myanmar is one of the key regions that hold the key to India’s energy security. Energy security is key to sustaining 8%-plus economic growth.

In 2006, the Asia-Pacific demand was 15.6 million barrels per day (mbpd), compared with local crude and gas production of 6.85 mbpd.

Consumption of petroleum products in India, the world’s fifth-largest oil importer, is around 112 million tonnes per annum. It procures 78% of its energy needs from abroad.

PTI contributed to this story.