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Open to transit corridor for Myanmar gas

From India Times
December 9, 2004
link to this article.

This could be a major breakthrough in India's energy diplomacy. If initial talks are any indication, India could soon be working on a transit corridor through Bangladesh to import gas from Myanmar.

Petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who had initiated a proposal to this effect, met the visiting finance and planning minister of Bangladesh, Saifur Rahman, in the capital on Tuesday. Bangladesh has indicated that it is open to a tripartite agreement with Myanmar and India to explore the possibilities of bringing in gas to India.

A pipeline through the eastern corridor is expected to bring in the much required gas for the eastern region in India. This comes at a time when India is discussing possibilities of getting into a back-to-back bilateral agreement with Iran to import natural gas at its border.

Bangladesh, which has huge deposits of natural gas, has till now stayed away from a direct dialogue on trading gas with India. Aiyar will be a member of the visiting delegation to Dhaka early January 2005, to participate in the Saarc summit.

With Bangladesh now willing to explore the possibilities of entering into a tripartite agreement, Aiyar is expected to follow up his Dhaka visit with official talks in Yangoon soon after. Sources say that Bangladesh is expected to join in the Yangoon meeting.

For India, which has been making an effort to import gas from the west coast, the proposed eastern corridor could open up new sources of energy and gas. As of now, OVL has a 20% interest supported with 10% stake by GAIL in two offshore blocks A-1 and A3 in Myanmar.

The other consortium partners are Daewoo and KOGAS Block A-1 extends over an area of about 3,885 sq km off Myanmars Rakhine Coast, close to Bangladesh.

The pipeline is one of the several options being considered by India to bring gas from the offshore fields in Myanmar. Sources say that India could explore possibilities of a participating interest in building the 290-km gas trunkline.

Bangladesh state-owned Gas Transmission Company is expected to be responsible for managing the stretch in its country.

Although no official figures are available, sources say the pipeline could involve an investment of about $1bn. Also, Bangladesh by offering the transit corridor could earn about $125m annually as transit fee for the pipeline, that would run through Arakan (Rakhine) state in Myanmar to the Mizoram and Tripura in India before crossing Bangladesh to Kolkata.

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