India, Myanmar to cooperate in oil and gas



New Delhi: The leaders of India and Myanmar agreed on Friday to expand cooperation in oil and gas exploration, open up border trade and speed up the construction of natural gas pipelines.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered visiting Myanmar President Thein Sein USD 500 million in credits for infrastructure projects, including roads, inland waterways and ports.

They emphasised in a joint statement the need for energy security, and Myanmar agreed to encourage more Indian investments in its energy sector.

Private and state-owned Indian energy companies have already made substantial investments in Myanmar.

Thein Sein, a retired senior Army officer who took office in March as head of an elected military-led government, has launched economic reforms and eased limits on freedom of speech by relaxing censorship and unblocking banned websites.

He also has started a dialogue with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, released some political prisoners, made calls for peace with ethnic minority rebel groups and suspended a controversial China-backed hydropower dam project after a public outcry.

Both India and China are interested in increased access to Myanmar's natural gas resources. However, Indian officials downplayed any competition with Beijing in furthering ties with Myanmar.

"We have an important relationship with Myanmar. And we have an important relationship with China. There is no competition," Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash told reporters.

Trade between India and Myanmar totalled USD 1.28 billion last year. The two countries have set a modest target of USD 3 billion by 2015.

Bureau Report