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Indian investment in Sudan very safe, assures envoy
By P. Jayaram, Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) India's biggest international investment in a Sudanese oil consortium is "very safe" and will be mutually beneficial, according to Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohammad.

"The Indian investment is very safe not only because the country (Sudan) is safe but also because it has institutional guarantees, bilateral and multilateral," Mohammad told IANS in an interview.

The Indian cabinet has approved a decision by ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL), the overseas arm of the public sector oil exploration major Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, to invest $750 million in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company of Sudan in June.

Last week New Delhi and Khartoum signed an Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investments. As a further protection measure towards securing its investment, India is taking a risk cover from the World Bank-affiliated Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), officials said.

"I am the happiest man about the deal," the envoy said, commenting on the decision by OVL to buy 25 percent stake in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, held by a Canadian oil company Talisman.

OVL finalised the deal with Talisman in London on Wednesday. A high-level delegation headed by ONGC Videsh managing director Atul Chandra will travel to Khartoum next week to finalise the agreement with the Sudanese government and other members of the consortium.

Besides Talisman's 25 percent stake in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co, China National Petroleum Corporation holds 40 percent and Malaysia's Petronas holds 30 percent. Sudan's Sudapet holds the remaining five percent in the 230,000 barrels-a-day project.

Mohammad, who has been the driving force in convincing the Indian authorities about the viability of the investment, said both India and Sudan stood to gain from the venture.

"It is again another step forward in the historical relations between Sudan and India. The decision gives economic content to the warm and friendly relations between our countries," he added.

Describing the Indian investment in Sudan as a "typical example of South-South cooperation," he said: "I think it gives substance to our historical ties."

About security concerns expressed in some quarters about the investment in view of the dragging civil war in the North African nation, he said: "But tell me which country in the world is conflict-free. Every country is having its share of troubles. Talking about it is not correct."

He also noted if the problem is so big, Sudan would not have achieved "the miracle of producing oil".

The project has a current production of 12 million tonnes annually, equal to that of India's biggest oilfield at Bombay High. India's share in the production would be three million tonnes per annum.

Mohammad said Sudan is keen on India also bidding for oil concessions among several blocks being offered for exploration and production along the Red Sea coast and northwest region, "which is one of the most secure areas".

"In fact, we are looking at Indian companies stepping up investment in all areas particularly independent power production and setting up refineries," he said.

Indo-Asian News Service

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