22 January 2007

Myanmar will sell India gas "only if reserves permit"

India has agreed to sell weapons to Myanmar's military rulers. But it is still not clear whether it will get gas in return.

22 January 2007
The Hindu

"Gas for India only if reserves permit"

Siddharth Varadarajan

Naypyitaw: Vice-Senior General Maung Aye, second-in-command of Myanmar's military regime, has said his Government is not yet in a position to guarantee assured supplies of gas for the proposed Myanmar-India pipeline because the requisite survey of reserves has not yet been completed.

In a meeting with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday, the General said the survey would be completed by April or May. If the reserves proved to be large enough and India was able to offer a competitive price, his Government would have no objection to earmarking it for an Indian pipeline.

An Indian survey of A-3, one of the offshore blocks where the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and the Gas Authority of India Limited have a combined 30 per cent stake, suggested reserves of 5 trillion cubic feet. Though this is enough to feed the proposed pipeline, the Myanmar authorities are keen to explore all options, including converting the gas into liquefied natural gas and exporting it to China and other East Asian markets.

Transport linkage

Among the other issues India and Myanmar are working on is transport linkage. Apart from the Tamu-Kalewa and the Moreh-Bagan-Maesot trilateral highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand, Mr. Mukherjee told reporters that the Sittwe-Kaladan-Mizoram multi-modal transport project was at an advanced stage of conception, and the Union Cabinet was likely to sanction $100 million for upgrading the infrastructure on the Indian side.

In addition, India was prepared to offer a soft loan of $10 million to Myanmar so that the facilities in Sittwe could be improved and a link road to the Mizoram border constructed.

During his meetings, the External Affairs Minister was asked whether India could provide more locomotives and rolling stock for Myanmar's metre gauge network. Mr. Mukherjee said India would be able to do so.

"On the whole, my visit was quite good," he told reporters at the end of his visit. "They were quite receptive and responsive."

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