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India’s oil contracts will be honoured: South Sudan


New Delhi : The newly-created north African country of South Sudan has assured India it be honouring all its contracts for stakes in oil wells with Indian entities within its territory.

This was conveyed by South Sudan’s special envoy and minister Priscilla Joseph Kuch during her meeting with Indian External Affairs minister S.M. Krishna Thursday afternoon.

This is the first formal visit by a senior South Sudan official after the February referendum, in which 98 percent of voters opted for independence from Sudan and form a separate country.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said the issue of India’s hydrocarbon interests in oil-rich southern Sudan had been “touched upon” during the talks. He said that as part of nation-building, the South Sudan government was “consolidating” and taking stock of agreements in the sector.

“Our understanding is that the agreements pertaining to India will be honoured,” Prakash told reporters.

India’s ONGC Videsh Limited has stakes in several wells in Sudan, with production now standing at 160,000 barrels per day. Out of this, 100,000 barrels per day of production are of well now falling within South Sudan.

“OVL has already offered training and to go beyond the current level of engagement,” said MEA’s joint secretary (West Asia North Africa) Rajiv Shahare.

India had made an initial investment of $1 billion in the hydrocarbon sector, which increased to $2.5 billion. India is among the three biggest players in the oil sector in undivided Sudan, along with China and Malaysia.

Prakash said that the South Sudan special envoy had invited the Indian leadership to be present at the formal ceremony of declaration of independence on July 9.

India was one of the first countries to open a consulate in the capital, Juba, in 2007. “This will soon be upgraded to embassy status,” said the official.

The South Sudan minister said that her government’s biggest priority was development of agriculture, with over 80 percent of the population dependent on this sector. The other area that the new government plans to accord importance is education and health sector.

“These are some sectors in which India is willing and can play a role,” said Prakash.

Two Indian health majors have already taken exploratory teams to talk with authorities in South Sudan, he added.

Coincidentally, the meeting took a day after the foreign minister of Sudan, Ali Ahmed Karti, also met with Krishna here.

Prakash said that India assured Karti that it will continue to be Sudan’s “development partner” and provide all kinds of assistance in development, capacity building and infrastructure.

A multi-disciplinary delegation, comprising of officials from various ministries, will soon be visiting Khartoum and Juba in the next few weeks to further discuss possible areas of cooperation and assistance from India, he added.

There are said to be around 10,000 Indian nationals and persons of Indian origin in Sudan. In India, there are a large number of Sudanese nationals, with over 3000 students studying in various institutions across India.

Over the years, India has extended $566 million line of credit, which include for building a 500 megawatt power plant. Bilateral trade between India and Sudan was about $1 billion in 2010.