India to target Myanmar's abundant Energy sector

Majors like ONGC Videsh Ltd and Oil India Ltd already in race for onshore blocks in strategic country so far dominated by China

India will push for greater participation in the abundant oil and gas sector in Myanmar, so far dominated by China, with majors like ONGC Videsh Ltd and Oil India Ltd already in the race for on-shore blocks in the country.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who is leading an official and business delegation to Myanmar this week, is scheduled to meet Myanmar’s Energy Minister, U Than Htay and extensively discuss the country’s interest in the energy sector.

India is likely to request for positive consideration to be given to Indian companies for allocation of some of the blocks. Sharma will also meet Myanmar’s Industry Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister for Information and Technology to discuss ways to intensify cooperation in bilateral trade and economy.

India, which had mostly distanced itself from the country during the military rule despite strong economic interests, has now jumped in to make the most of its geographical proximity.

Reflecting the changed political situation in the country, the Minister will start his series of meetings with Chairperson of the National League for Democracy Aung San Su Kyi who was a political prisoner under house arrest less than three years ago.

India has strong interests in the energy sector, IT and telecom, agriculture and manufactured items. “China has maintained business relations with the country for a long time now and has a head start in most areas, especially energy. But we plan to catch up soon,” an official said.

Myanmar’s largely untapped economic potential makes it an attractive destination for other countries. According to a report released recently by global management consultancy firm McKinsey, “managed well, Myanmar could conceivably quadruple the size of its economy, from $45 billion in 2010 to more than $200 billion in 2030s.’’

Recently, Myanmar put on offer 30 offshore oil and gas blocks, on a production-sharing basis, and there are seven Indian companies that are reported to be in the short list that includes OIL, OVL, Cairn India and Jubilant Energy.

In the telecom sector, India’s Bharti Airtel, along with its consortium partners, is one of the 11 final bidders for a telecom licence in Myanmar.

In talks to increase Border trade

India is also in talks with Myanmar to open more border trade points to increase trade through the land route. India’s imports from Myanmar stood at $1.4 billion in 2012 while its exports to the country were just $542 million.

“The turnaround in Myanmar is one big positive message from the region. We are seriously looking at the country. The fact that the World Economic Forum is taking place in Myanmar is in itself a statement of global interest in the country,” Sharma informed.

The Minister addressed the World Economic Forum for East Asia in NayPyiTaw that was attended by leaders from other East Asian countries as well. With the recent spate of political and economic reforms in the country that started in 2010 when the military declared elections after 20 years, its isolation from the world is slowly coming to an end.

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