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To counter China, India offers Myanmar a $6B oil refinery

Essar Oil's refinery at Vadinar village, near Jamnagar, in India. Unlike the US and Australia, India is a net importer of fossil fuels. Photo: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, Oct 6, 2020, TNN. As China further intensifies its energy cooperation with Myanmar, India is working to ramp up its own presence in the same sector in the strategically located neighbour with a booming energy industry. The joint visit by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and army chief MM Naravane saw the 2 countries discussing the possibility of building a petroleum refinery in Myanmar that will involve an investment of $ 6 billion, The Times of India reported.

India proposes to build the refinery in the Thanlyin region near Yangon, official sources said. “As of now IOCL has evinced interest in the project,” said a source, adding that this would be a win-win arrangement for both countries.

China currently accounts for almost 70 percent of foreign investments in the energy sector in Myanmar. India’s eastern neighbour, which straddles India’s Act East and Neighbourhood First policies, has very few refineries though and imports mostly account for its domestic fuel consumption.

During their joint visit, Shringla and Naravane also called on State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander in Chief of Defense Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

The two sides also discussed, as the government said in a statement, maintenance of security and stability in their border areas and reiterated their mutual commitment not to allow their respective territories to be used for “activities inimical to each other”. The government appreciated Myanmar's decision to hand over 22 Indian insurgents to India.

Interestingly, Shringla and Naravane presented 3000 vials of Remdesivir to the State Counsellor. India said it was symbolic of its commitment to assist Myanmar in the fight against the pandemic.

The visit also saw India underscoring its commitment to work with both Myanmar and Bangladesh for early stabilisation of the situation in the strife-torn Rakhine state. India and Myanmar upgraded a Rakhine State Development Programme (RSDP) agreement meant to address the challenges faced in agricultural productivity by using farm machinery and equipment more effectively and efficiently. This, in turn, is expected to improve the socio-economic status of the people in Rakhine, said official sources.

Bangladesh foreign minister AK Momen had recently warned that the failure to resolve the humanitarian problem, involving repatriation of the Rohingyas, would lead to radicalism and terrorism that would hamper peace and stability in the region.

India reiterated its position before Myanmar that it supports safe, sustainable, and speedy repatriation of displaced persons from Bangladesh to Rakhine state based on the understanding between Bangladesh and Myanmar. “India fully understands the urgency of this situation and has committed humanitarian efforts in both Myanmar and Bangladesh to facilitate an early return of the displaced persons. India has provided 5 tranches of relief supplies to Bangladesh and is willing to do more,” said an official source, adding that India was extending socio-economic development assistance health, education and agriculture projects in Rakhine through a grant-in-aid of $ 5 million per year.

During the visit, India also announced a grant of $ 2 million for the construction of the border haat bridge at Byanyu/Sarsichauk in Chin State that is expected to provide improved economic connectivity between Mizoram and Myanmar.

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