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Indian Petroleum Minister to visit Bangladesh for Tri-Nation Gas Pipeline

From Narinjara News
8/26/2005
http://www.narinjara.com/details.asp?id=201 to this article

Mani Shankar Aiyar, Indian minister for petroleum, is set to arrive in Dhaka on September 5th for a two-day visit to discuss the proposed $1 billion tri-nation gas pipeline project which will connect Burma and India through Bangladesh.

"He is coming to Dhaka at the invitation of Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan," Foreign Secretary Hemayetuddin told The Daily Star, a popular English language newspaper in Bangladesh.

Aiyar was due to arrive on August 27th, but his arrival has been delayed following extension of the parliament session in India.

He also had discussions on Monday with Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, regarding India's course for breaking the apparent impasse over the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline.

The discussion cleared Aiyar's visit to Dhaka for a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh and Burma which was delayed due to some bilateral issues.

Bangladesh agreed to allow the gas pipeline through its territory but Bangladesh is demanding India allow parts of its territory to be used for transporting goods to Nepal and Bhutan, and for importing power from these countries and reducing the $2.5 billion trade imbalance with India.

Bangladesh urged India to solve the problems hindering exports to India when Indian External Affairs Minister visited Dhaka earlier this month.

Besides the tri-nation gas pipeline, the Indian Petroleum Minister will discuss with his counterparts of Bangladesh energy issues and other bilateral issues between India and Bangladesh while in Dhaka.

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Daewoo ties up with Indian firm for oil project

From The Korea Herald
August 25, 2005
link to this article.

Daewoo International Corp. announced yesterday that India-based Oil and Natural Gas Corp., Gail Ltd. and Korea Gas Corp. agreed to invest in its gas-drilling project in Myanmar.

According to the statement, Daewoo holds the majority stake of 60 percent in this project with ONGC and the other two companies investing 20 and 10 percent, respectively.

Three to ten trillion cubic feet of natural gas is estimated to be buried in Daewoo's A-3 gas block, which is located on the west shore of the country.

Lee Tae-yong, CEO of Daewoo International, said, "The co-investment decisions made by the largest natural gas distributor in Korea and India guarantee prospective purchasers as well as diversifying risks of the project."

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Indian oil minister due next month-Talks with Dhaka to focus on tri-nation gas pipeline

Shahnaj Begum
From Bangladesh-web
August 24, 2005
link to this article.

The government will extend an invitation to Indian Petroleum Minister Moni Shankar Aiyar to visit Bangladesh between September 4 and 6 to finalise the three-nation gas pipeline project.(The Independent)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Energy and Mineral Resources Division received confirmation from New Delhi yesterday (Tuesday) about the fixing of fresh date for Aiyar's visit, which was originally scheduled to be held between August 27 and 28.

Sources said, after getting final nod from Bangladesh Foreign Minster M. Morshed Khan the Indian government finalised the fresh date of the meeting.

"A bilateral meeting will be held between Bangladesh and India for finalising some issues relating to the project", a top official of the Energy Ministry yesterday told The Independent preferring anonymity. He said that this bilateral meeting would be held before the proposed three-party meeting. "Before we settle the matter, Bangladesh wants to discuss some terms and conditions with its Indian counterpart," he added.

Indian press reported that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday discussed with oil and external affairs ministers Mani Shankar Aiyar and Natwar Singh, respectively, India's course for breaking the ice over the proposed $1 billion gas pipeline from Myanmar through Bangladesh.

The press also said that the Indian Prime Minister cleared, in principle, Aiyar's visit to Dhaka for talks to iron out the pros and cons of a trilateral MoU with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Official sources expressed optimism that the proposed visit would provide an opportunity to Adviser, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Mahmudur Rahman to discuss tri-nation gas pipeline project and other bilateral matters with the Indian minister, a highly placed source told The Independent yesterday.

In exchange of allowing its territory for gas pipeline from Myanmar to India, Bangladesh wants corridor through India for trade with Nepal and Bhutan and for bringing electricity.

Earlier, in a letter dated March 7 the Indian Petroleum Minister expressed his desire to discuss the issues relating to the gas pipeline, before signing the MoU. AKM Mosharraf Hossain, former State Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources sat across the table with the Indian Petroleum Minister Moni Shankar Aiyar and Myanmar Energy Minister Lun Thai in Myanmar in January last and fixed the date of signing a MoU. The Indian government arranged a meeting with the Myanmar authorities excluding Bangladesh last month to explore the possibility of taking the pipeline from Myanmar to Mizoram and onwards to Assam ending in West Bengal, covering a distance of 1400km, which is roughly double the length of the pipeline should it travel through Bangladesh.

After the recent visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh to Bangladesh, the deadlock over the proposed gas pipeline seemed to have been removed as he expressed the desire to continue efforts to facilitate the laying of gas pipeline from Myanmar to India via Bangladesh.

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PM talks Bangla pipeline, clears Aiyar's visit

Sanjay Dutta
From The Times of India
August 23, 2005
link to this article.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday discussed with oil and external affairs ministers Mani Shankar Aiyar and Natwar Singh, respectively, India's course for breaking the logjam over the proposed $1 billion gas pipeline from Myanmar via Bangladesh.

The meeting cleared, in principle, Aiyar's visit to Dhaka for talks to iron out the nitty-gritties of a trilateral MoU with Bangladesh and Myanmar that has been hanging fire over inclusion of bilateral issues. Aiyar was earlier scheduled to visit Dhaka on August 27 after the Parliament session got over. Since the House sitting has been extended, he will now go at a later date, subject to confirmation from Dhaka.

The meeting also discussed the impact of last week's explosions across Bangladesh on the pipeline project and worry expressed by Myanmar over the delay in signing of the MoU.

Bangladesh is keen on Aiyar's visit for holding discussion. After agreeing in January to allow a pipeline for India's use through its territory, Bangladesh insisted that the trialteral MoU include its demand for using the Indian transmission network for bringing power from Bhutan and Nepal, using Indian territory for transporting goods to Nepal and Bhutan and that New Delhi reduces the $2.5 billion trade deficit.

India said these were bilateral issues and suggested alternatives to address Bangladesh's concerns. It is yet to get reply from Bangladesh.

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Daewoo Completes Myanmar Test Drillings

Na Jeong-ju
From The Korea Times
August 22, 2005
link to this article.

Daewoo International said on Sunday that it has completed test drillings on the gas reserve it found earlier in the sea off Myanmar and confirmed the existence of a huge mine that may contain more than 10 trillion cubic feet of gases.

The exact size of the reserve is due late this year, Daewoo officials said.

"The gas mine in Shwe is expected to hold more than 10 trillion cubic feet of gases," a Daewoo official said, quoting Myanmar officials as saying. "Tests show the density of the gas is very fine and good for commercial use."

The trading company has been conducting surveys on the Shwe area, which contains a mine spanning a few kilometers, before pumping gases out for sale. Analysts forecast that Daewoo may earn at least $100 million in net profit annually for 20 years from 2010 once gas production begins.

Daewoo is a main investor in the development of gas mines in Shwe, Shwe Phyu and Ngwe in Myanmar. Drilling experts have said huge mines may also exist in Shwe Phyu and Ngwe.

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PTT eyes 15% stake in field near Burma

Yuthana Praiwan
From Bangkok Post, Thailand
August 22, 2005
link to this article.

PTT Plc [Petroleum Authority of Thailand] is seeking a 15% stake in a Burmese offshore petroleum field where exploration is near completion, says Chitrapongse Kwangsukstith, the company's senior executive vice-president for gas business.

Work in the A1 field, located in the Bay of Bengal, is currently being undertaken by the Daewoo Group of South Korea.

Huge gas reserves were discovered in the field and the output will be piped into Thailand once a deal with PTT is reached and the development stage has begun, Mr Chitrapongse said.

In exchange for the gas purchases, PTT wants to obtain at least a 15% stake in the operation of the field.

To facilitate gas transport, a 1,000-kilometre undersea pipeline will be constructed from the field to connect with Yadana and Yetagun, two offshore gas fields in the Andaman Sea.

"Whether the gas [from A1] will be economically viable depends on the price of the commodity," Mr Chitrapongse said.

Gas piped from the field to Thailand will help meet help demand after 2011, coinciding with PTT's plan to import liquefied natural gas from Iran and Australia.

PTT Exploration and Production Plc, PTT's exploration arm, is looking for petroleum in the M-11 block, located near Burma in the Gulf of Martaban and covering 7,200 square kilometres. It is PTTEP's third venture in Burma. The other two are the Yadana and Yetagun fields where it holds 25.5% and 19.3% respectively.

In another development, Mr Chitrapongse said PTT might seek new banks to replace the Government Savings Bank in its campaign to promote the use of natural gas for vehicles.

PTT signed an agreement with the GSB last month for the bank to lend money to drivers converting engines to run on natural gas. But Mr Chitrapongse said the bank was too slow in approving credit and its conditions were too stringent.

To date, only about 300 private vehicles have been converted, against target of 5,000 set for next month.

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Myanmar offers well-head gas at $2.52/mmbtu

Anupama Airy
From The Financial Express, India
August 18, 2005
link to this article.

The Myanmar government has indicated a well-head price of $2.52 per million metric british thermal unit (mmbtu) for gas exports to India. Depending on how it is transported - through a pipeline or the LNG/CNG route - there will be additional processing and transportation costs which will be built into the well-head gas price.

The price offered by Myanmar is in line with what it is selling gas to Thailand at. Sources said negotiations will now be carried out with Myanmar considering that the gas being imported to Thailand is rich whereas the block A-1 gas, where both ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) and GAIL (India) Limited have 30% equity, is lean. "Appropriate reduction would therefore be sought as per the prevailing international norms," sources said.

India will also seek a volume discount while negotiating the final price of gas because the volume of gas exports to Thailand is 10 million metric standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) whereas off-take from A1 block (including the Myanmar government's share) is between 22-28 mmscmd.

Three options are being explored to import gas from Myanmar - the north-east pipeline route, sea route to bring the gas in compressed form or the LNG mode.

GAIL has been asked to give the cost details of all these three options based on feasibility studies carried out by consultants Snamprogetti and Enersea.

The LNG option, say sources, is viable only if sufficient quantities are available in Myanmar for exports to India. Moreover, Daewoo, which operates the A-1 block, is unlikely to sell its share of gas for marketing in India and is likely to take it to Korea.

Sources said the petroleum ministry had already asked GAIL to study the feasibility of bringing gas from Myanmar through the CNG route, as proposed by international company Enersea.

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India proposes to resume talks on tri-nation gas pipeline

From The Financial Express/Bangladesh-web
August 17, 2005
link to this article.

The prospect of the tri-nation gas pipeline appears bright following an official Indian proposal to Bangladesh for resuming talks on the billion-dollar project.

India, in a letter, asked Bangladesh to host a tour by former Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar on August 27-28, sources in the foreign ministry said.

The New Delhi letter that reached Dhaka in the last week expressed willingness to resume talks on the proposed memorandum of understanding (MoU) in connection with the project.

The New Delhi letter was sent after the visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh to Bangladesh during August 6-8. The issue of pipeline was highlighted at a meeting between Sing and Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman during the visit.

Dhaka is likely to take a decision on the tour and inform New Delhi on the date of tour by today (Wednesday), the sources added.

However, Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh U Thane Myint said the issue of the tri-nation gas pipeline is going "very slowly" despite its prospects for the three close-door neighbours.

"The ball is in the court of Bangladesh and India," said Myint, and added that these two countries would decide how they could work together.

"I understand the most economic way would be to build the pipeline through Bangladesh," said the Myanmar Ambassador who said a guideline could be developed when Aiyar comes to Bangladesh.

"Time is running...we have gone halfway through 2005," Myint said hinting things were progressing quite slowly.

He said the three conditions set by Bangladesh could go through some scrutiny to have a check and balance, which would bring a win-win situation for these three countries.

Myanmar is already exporting natural gas to Thailand from its Yetegun and Yedena reserves and that it has proven gas reserve in the Bay of Bengal, 100 nautical miles south of Saint Martin Island.

A total of four blocks, from A-1 through A-4 have been classified along the south strips of Rakhaine coast, bordering Bangladesh where more than 6 to 7 trillion cubic feet of gas might be recoverable.

The tri-nation pipeline project was initiated by the Mohona Holdings Limited way back in 1997. The governments of India and Myanmar have already approved Mohona's proposal for the cross-border pipeline.

Bangladesh has formed a committee to fix its position on the project. The committee is yet to give its opinion.

The prospect of the trans-nation gas line that also involved neigbouring Myanmer was shadowed due to plan by New Delhi to skip Bangladesh from the project to safeguard "India's strategic interests".

In early last month, an UAE based newspaper quoting Indian government officials reported that a proposal to skip Bangladesh to run the pipeline entirely through India was under serious consideration.

Though India did not inform Bangladesh about the proposed realignment of the tri-nation pipeline officially, experts attributed to such intention by the New Delhi to creating pressure on Dhaka.

Bangladesh that tagged a number of bilateral issues for allowing its land for the proposed pipeline has reiterated its demand for free trade corridor to Nepal, removal of existing trade barriers between two countries and permission to buy hydropower from Bhutan and Nepal.

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Indian petroleum minister to be invited to visit Bangladesh this month

Shahnaj Begum
From The Independent, Bangladesh
August 17, 2005
link to this article.

The government will extend an invitation to Indian Petroleum Minister Moni Shankar Aiyar to visit Bangladesh this month.

Official sources expressed optimism that the proposed visit would provide an opportunity to Adviser, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Mahmudur Rahman to discuss tri-nation gas pipeline project and other bilateral matters with Indian minister, a highly placed source told The Independent yesterday.

In exchange of allowing its territory for gas pipeline from Myanmar to India, Bangladesh wants corridor through India for trade with Nepal and Bhutan and for bringing electricity.

Earlier, in a letter dated March 7 the Indian Petroleum Minister expressed his desire to discuss the issues relating to the gas pipeline, before signing the MoU. AKM Mosharraf Hossain, former state minister for energy and mineral resources sat across the table with the Indian Petroleum Minister Moni Shankar Aiyar and Myanmar Energy Minister Lun Thai in Myanmar in January last and fixed the date of signing MoU.

Indian government arranged a meeting with the Myanmar government excluding Bangladesh last month to explore the possibility of taking the pipeline from Myanmar to Mizoram and onwards to Assam ending in West Bengal, a distance of 1400 km, which is roughly double the length of the pipeline should it travel through Bangladesh.

After the recent visit of the Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh in Bangladesh the deadlock over the proposed gas pipeline seems to be removed as he expressed the desire to continue efforts to facilitate the laying of gas pipeline from Myanmar to India via Bangladesh.

It is learnt that Bangladesh has put certain conditions for allowing gas pipeline to run from Myanmar to India through its territory. Bangladesh's long pending request to India to allow land transit to Nepal, and import of hydro-electricity from Nepal and Bhutan will be the main agenda for the discussion.

A draft of the MoU was finalised at the first meeting of the Techno-Economic Working Committee on Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline, which concluded in Yangon on February 25.

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India, China aim to team up for oil assets

Himangshu Watts
From Reuters
August 16, 2005
link to this article.

Indian and Chinese oil firms will sign agreements aimed at bidding jointly for foreign oil and gas projects and reducing cut-throat competition, a top Indian official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The energy-hungry Asian giants, which have stretched global supplies and contributed to the record rise in oil prices, are competing for stakes in foreign oil and gas projects to secure supplies.

Indian firms will sign separate memoradums of understanding

(MOUs) with Sinopec Corp, China National Petroleum Corp. and CNOOC, the head of Indian oil ministry's international division said.

"They have given a very specific and strong commitment for cooperation," Talmiz Ahmad told Reuters after a visit to China.

Indian firms likely to sign the MOUs include Oil and Natural Gas Corp, its overseas subsidiary ONGC Videsh, Oil India Ltd., Indian Oil Corp., Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd, he said.

"A senior executive in a Chinese company said joint bids from India and China would be so formidable that there are no targets which will not be accessable," Ahmad said.

The agreements would be signed when India's oil minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, visits China later this year, he said.

"An inter-governmental joint working group will be set up to monitor the cooperation and give it the necessary momentum."

Aiyar said in February that the two countries may jointly bid for some foreign projects and compete in others.

In April, a joint statement issued during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India said the two countries agreed to cooperate in their quest for energy security.

Asian oil firms have spent billions of dollars on projects around the world, including in countries such as Sudan that are off-limits to oil majors, and picked up scraps hived off by cost-cutting Western oil companies.

Chinese oil giants have been scouring the globe for energy assets in the last five years, spending over $5 billion in projects from Australia to Indonesia and Sudan to Saudi Arabia.

Similarly, India, which imports 70 percent of its crude oil requirement, has stakes in projects in several countries including Myanmar, Sudan, Russia, Libya and Australia.

India's hunt for oil projects is led by state-run exploration firm ONGC, but the country's largest refiner, Indian Oil Corp. has also joined the race and won an exploration block in Libya.

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China, India zero in on Kazakh, Myanmar fuel assets

Charlie Zhu
From Reuters, India
August 15, 2005
link to this article.

The upcoming sale of two major oil assets in Asia is set to generate intense competition between Chinese and Indian state oil firms, giving lie to the notion that the two may collaborate as they scramble for overseas reserves.

China National Petroleum Corp. (CPNC) and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) are in the running for PetroKazakhstan Inc., a $3.2 billion Canada-based company with all its assets in central Asia.

The expected sale by Chevron Inc. of its $700 million-plus gas field stake in army-ruled Myanmar is also set to stir up Chinese and Indian interest. Top firms from both nations are already major investors in the gas-rich Southeast Asian country.

Ultimately, however, both could fail if project partners opt to excercise their pre-emption rights, forcing the two to search even harder for a dwindling pool of regional oil and gas prospects to help fuel their fast-growing economies.

India's ambitious oil minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, has urged Chinese and Indian state energy firms to collaborate to prevent acquisition costs climbing higher. But heated contests for these two latest assets illustrate the difficulty of joining forces in the high-stakes game of oil security.

The PetroKazakhstan sale will not be smooth, analysts say. PetroKazakhstan has had rocky ties with Kazakh authorities. It was also caught in a battle with Russia's LUKOIL, its partner in a joint-venture in the Central Asian country.

"I know that obviously the Chinese would be interested and the Indians may be interested. But at the end of the day they need to work with the Kazakh government and they have got to settle all the ligitation with LUKOIL," said a top investment banker familiar with the Kazakh oil industry.

CNPC, parent of PetroChina, is better placed to win the auction as PetroKazakhstan would complement its already substantial presence in Kazakhstan, sources said.

CNPC has built a mega pipeline pumping Kazakh crude oil to energy-starved China, which is especially desperate for an overseas oil interest after having lost in the race to acquire Unocal Corp.

"This is a complex issue. There are lots of legal issues," a source familiar with the Chinese company said of hurdles faced by the PetroKazakhstan sale. "We think CNPC is a front-runner."

An Indian oil ministry official told Reuters on Sunday ONGC had submitted a bid to acquire PetroKazakhstan. Goldman Sachs, financial adviser for PetroKazakhstan, declined to comment, while CNPC officials were not immediately available.

Sources familiar with the bidding process said ONGC had a lower chance of winning the company. Even if ONGC placed the highest bid, the Kazakh government might exercise its first right of refusal before onselling it to CNPC.

The Kazakh government has said it might exercise its rights to block any sale of assets in the country by PetroKazakhstan.

PetroKazakhstan's New York-listed shares last traded at $43.53, surging more than 70 percent since mid-May. Russian investment bank United Financial Group said in a research note on Monday any bidder would need to pay a premium for a controlling stake.

Assuming long-term Brent prices at $35-$40 a barrel, "a bidding range of between $45-$50 a share is justified," it said. Brent crude is trading above $66 a barrel on Friday.


MYANMAR GAS ON THE BLOCK?

PetroKazakhstan and Chevron's Myanmar assets are not expected to get much attention from Western majors because of regulatory or legal risks.

U.S. oil producer Unocal, which has just been taken over by Chevron, has faced a series of protests from human rights activists over its business in Myanmar.

Chevron has not yet made public its plan on the Myanmar assets, which include a 28.26 percent stake in the offshore Yadana field, which mainly supplies the Thai market, and a gas pipeline. But it is widely expected to sell its stakes in the country to avoid more protests or lawsuits.

"So many people are interested, but I don't know if they are going to do it through bilateral talks or an auction," a person close to the situation said. He expects Chevron would kick off the sale later this year.

CNPC and ONGC would certainly want to expand their presence in Myanmar, experts said. India is hoping to build a natural gas pipeline from Myanmar to help meet its growing demand.

But a Merrill Lynch research note said shareholders in Yadana, including Thailand's state-run PTTEP that already owns 25.5 percent stake in the field would most likely be the winner as it could exercise its pre-emption right.

It is not clear whether the other Yadana shareholders, France's Total SA, which holds a 31.24 percent, and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, with a 15 percent stake, would also exercise their first right of refusal.

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Bangla bonhomie

Farid Hossain
From The Telegraph, India
August 7, 2005
link to this article.

India and Bangladesh will step up efforts to maintain peace along the border and stop illegal migration, foreign minister K. Natwar Singh said today.

After two-hour talks with Bangladesh counterpart M. Morshed Khan, Singh said the neighbours had agreed to hold a high-level meeting to discuss unauthorised crossovers along the 4,500-km frontier.

India claims insurgents from northeastern states cross into Bangladesh to attend training camps reportedly run on its soil. Bangladesh insists it does not shelter rebels or allow its territory to be used against its neighbours. It also denies its citizens illegally cross into India.

The two ministers appeared before the press after their talks at state guest house Padma, but did not take queries from journalists.

Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran said the two had discussed signing an extradition treaty, but there was no breakthrough yet.

India has long been urging Bangladesh to extradite Ulfa leader Anup Chetia who has stayed on in that country after serving his jail term. Bangladesh says he can't be extradited without a treaty.

The two sides also discussed the proposed pipeline that would allow India to transport natural gas from Myanmar through Bangladesh territory.

"We have agreed to work together to realise our common destiny. We have committed to strengthening our relations through dialogue based on mutual friendship, trust and understanding," Singh said in a written statement.

He said there had been a detailed and wide-ranging exchange of views on issues of mutual interest and "differences of opinion as well".

Sources said India had informed Bangladesh it was seeking a permanent seat in the Security Council. It was unclear if any formal support was sought.

In a statement on arrival at Zia International Airport, Singh said India "attaches the highest importance to its relations with Bangladesh".

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India asks S Korea to be an investor in oil sector

From Press Trust of India/The Business Standard
August 1, 2005
link to this article.

India today invited South Korean oil companies to invest in the country's upstream and refining sector and also work jointly to explore opportunities in other countries as well.

"We have invited them to invest in india both in upstream and refining and especially in export-oriented refining. I have suggested that working together in india is perhaps the best way of establishing those contacts that will enable us to work together in third countries", petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said after over an hour meeting with South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki Moon today.

"I have also brought to his notice that India is a growing market for energy. Hitherto Korean oil and gas companies have a presence here as vendors and service providers. Whereas we really need them in the sector as investors and getting those investments into the country is going to be a major thrust area", he said.

He said korea had made investments and entered into contracts with companies that have resources located much closer to India than they are to Korea.

"Whereas we have invested in Sakhalin for our share of gas. May be we could invest in areas that are closer to Korea like the eastern part of the Indonesian Archipelago. Including Papua New Gunea and try and do a swap arrangement whereby what is available in ache (in Sumatra Island) which is nearer to India or what's available on their shore in Myanmar becomes available to us here," Aiyar said.

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Let Myanmar pipeline be standalone project: India tells Bangladesh

Anupama Airy
From The Financial Express, India
August 1, 2005
link to this article.

India is not averse to any of the issues raised by Bangladeshi authorities according to Indian high commission officials in Dhaka. However, the only bone of contention is that while Dhaka feels that discussions on the these issues should form part of the trilateral dialogue, New Delhi is firm on its stand that negotiations on these issue should be de-linked from the pipeline project and be carried out on a bilateral basis.

India is of the view that the pipeline should be considered a stand-alone commercial project for which Bangladesh will be adequately compensated by the $100-125 million transit fee that it will get. Moreover, with this pipeline, Bangladesh would also be able to transfer gas supplies from the east to the western region of the country.

A gas pipeline from Myanmar via Bangladesh to India is certainly the most viable and cost-effective option of bringing gas from the offshore gas fields in Myanmar into the Indian territory. At the same time, another option of routing the pipeline via the north-eastern region, even though an expensive one, is also being explored.

A senior Indian high commission official in Dhaka told FE that while all efforts are being made to address the concerns raised by the Bangladeshi authorities on providing a trade and energy link to Nepal and Bhutan, the option of routing the pipeline via the north-east should be seriously explored, even if it amounts to taking the pipeline through a tough terrain and costs an estimated $2 billion extra.

"Bangladesh is asking for a variable transit fee which starts from $100 million and goes up to $500 million in the next 20 years. Even if Bangladesh agrees to charge a transit fee of $100-125 million, we will still spend a huge amount running into billion of dollars in the 20-year period. Why can't we then spend $2 billion extra in one go, considering the benefits it will bring along in terms of the development in North-East.

This pipeline can actually turn around the fate of the north-east which remains economically backward. The pipeline route via north-east actually offers us with a golden opportunity for the economic development of the region," the official said.

Officials said that while India has already issued a statement saying that it will explore an alternate route to transport gas from Myanmar, it is being understood as a mere "pressure tactics" by the authorities in Bangladesh. "They feel we are not serious on the alternate route via north-east. Why can’t we then seriously look into this option of a pipeline which will bring along with it the economic development in the north-eastern region," the official said.

On Bangladesh's keenness to mix trade issues with the pipeline project to improve the imbalance in bilateral trade, Indian officials in Dhaka clarified that already several moves were under way to resolve issues on this front.

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Myanmar pipeline back on track after Bangla nod

Anupana Airy
From The Financial Express, India
August 1, 2005
link to this article.

The over $2.5-billion Myanmar-India gas pipeline project via Bangladesh seems to be back on track with the Bangladesh government open to holding fresh negotiations on the three conditions set by it for signing the tri-nation agreement for implementing the project.

According to Mahmudur Rahman, advisor to Bangladesh's energy and mineral division, "We are open to negotiations on the three issues and are not saying that all of these should be agreed to by India. But for anything substantive, negotiations must begin."

Mr Rahman's comments assume significance and come just a week before the visit of the Indian external affairs minister, Natwar Singh, to Dhaka from August 6 to hold bilateral talks on a host of important issues, including the pipeline project. The energy and trade corridor issue will also figure during these talks, a senior Indian High Commission official said.

The three conditions laid down by Dhaka include provision of transit facility through India to facilitate transmission of hydro-electricity from Nepal and Bhutan to Bangladesh, assured utilisation of the corridor for trading between Bangladesh and Nepal/ Bhutan through Indian territory and initiation of measures to reduce the $2 billion trade imbalance between Bangladesh and India.

The proposed pipeline via Bangladesh will transport gas from the Shwe (offshore gas source) to Arakan (Rakhine) State in Myanmar into the Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura before crossing Bangladesh to reach Kolkata.

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Arakanese Villagers Are Being Forced to Aid in the Construction of the Gas Pipeline Between Burma and India

From Narinjara News, Bangladesh
August 1, 2005
link to this article.

Arakanese villagers, 500 in total, from the northern parts of Arakan state, have been forced to work on clearing a path for the construction of a gas pipeline between Burma and India.

The villages being forced to partake in the labor are from the northern regions of Kyauk Taw Township and the southern regions of Palatwa, according to local sources.

Over 30 villages in the Kyauk Taw Township fell victims to the Construction of the Gas Pipeline. Those included are Shwe Pray Tha, Tha See Roa, Kyauk Guu Zuu, Thone Soang Zuu, Myauk Taung, A Laee Kyan, Kyauk Tan, Watt Mine, Tha Htae Khaung, Paut Taw, Minn Tha Taung, Shwe Hlaing Roa, Sein Chrong, Late Ma, Kroan Ma, Kha Maung, Mala Thit, Sinn Owaoo Khaung, Yarla Roa, Sai Aung Roa, Sonn Kaing, Pada Chait, Paut Taw Phalong, Mahamuni, Thara Tapon, Kyaukta Lone, Thein Tan, Shwe Ta Hlay, Roa Ma Prin, Sien Kraone, Late Ma Roa and War Ma Kya.

The villages have to clear the forests on the path of the future pipeline, level the path by cutting the hills and filling the earth with hand tools and to build temporary bridges to cross creeks, says a villager from the region who was forced to participate in construction.

The villages located on the path of the Pipeline have been ordered to relocate by the military personals by the end of this raining season. Sein Krone, Late Ma Roa and Paut Taw will have to be relocated. There will be no compensation or any assistance for the relocation, says a villager.

Battalions of the Burmese army, the light infantry battalions (374), (375) and (376) involved in forcing the villagers to work on the construction of the pipeline are based in the Kyauk Taw Township.

It was learned that the forced labor is conducted under the direction of the Commander of the Western Command of the Burmese junta, and foreign tourists are not allowed to come near the area.

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