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Gas Bid
July 31, 2007

MEA and Petroleum Ministry in war of words
India’s loss of Myanmar gas to China has triggered a spat between the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Petroleum Ministry, online news portal reported from Delhi on July 31.

Following Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon’s observation that the Petroleum Ministry did not make ‘‘concerted efforts’’ to secure the gas, Petroleum Secretary M.S. Srinivasan has written to Menon, alleging he (Menon) was unaware of the developments and out-of-sync with his deputies.

At a meeting presided by Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister on June 20, Menon ticked off Srinivasan for inadequate efforts to secure gas from Blocks A-1 and A-3.

He said that Myanmar was ‘‘still open’’ to gas export to India and ‘‘if sincere efforts are made in this direction, it might still be possible to source gas from A-1 and A-3 Blocks for India’’.

Srinivasan, after contacting Menon’s officers in Yangon and the Ministry of External Affairs, has replied to the Foreign Secretary, saying that his views were entirely misplaced.

‘‘I feel that your observations at the meeting were not correct and did not convey the appropriate position about the consistent efforts made by the ministry to import gas from Myanmar, and the position of the Myanmar Government in this regard,’’ says Srinivasan in his letter to Menon.

To back his charge, Srinivasan has cited the views of India’s Ambassador in Myanmar, who was contacted ‘‘immediately after the meeting’’ as well as those from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar (BSM) Division working under Menon.

The Ambassador ‘‘indicated that Myanmar has already decided to sell the gas to China and that no purpose would be served by sending an Indian delegation at this juncture,’’ wrote Srinvasan. He said that the BSM division recently wrote to his ministry that ‘‘Myanmar’s decision to sell gas from A-1 and A-3 Blocks to China is final and that further attempts to get the gas to India could be made only if the Myanmar- China deal runs into trouble’’.

Menon had said that Petroleum Ministry and GAIL remained inactive despite holding the LoI (letter of intent) making Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) the preferential buyer of gas, and a letter from Myanmar in January 2006 informing the Chinese intention to buy gas.

This, the Foreign Secretary had argued, introduced a feeling in Yangon that India did not harbour ‘‘serious interest’’ in its energy sector, thereby providing the Chinese an opportunity to force Myanmar into the deal, using the issue of support in the United Nations Security Council.


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