NEW DELHI: Responding to the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, India has appointed a special envoy to broker peace between the two countries that hold the key to India’s pursuit of oil and other hydrocarbon resources in Africa. The foreign ministry’s decision to send a special envoy to these countries last week came three months after China, with whom New Delhi is locked in a fierce geopolitical battle to tap energy resources in Africa, sent its own special envoy to handle the crisis and protect Beijing’s oil interests.
Government sources confirmed that MEA additional secretary Amarendra Khatua, who handles the passport division, is on a visit to both Juba and Khartoumas India’s special envoy to help promote peace and protect India’s interests in other African nations as well.
The escalating conflict between the two nations, which has led Jubato suspend production and shipment altogether, is threatening to imperil ONGC Videsh Limited’s (OVL) investments of close to $3 billion into the undivided country. South Sudan has the largest oil reserve in Africa after Angola. It walked away with 75% of the oil fields of the undivided country after South Sudan was carved out last year. However, in the absence of any processing infrastructure, its authorities are seeking help from OVL to build pipelines, oil stores and refineries.
“It became essential to send a special envoy to South Sudan and Sudan to promote India’s interests as more investments by Indian companies, running into billions of dollars more, are in the pipeline,” said a source.
With all not hunky-dory between Beijing and Juba yet, mainly due to China’s support to the regime in Khartoum for years against the rebels, South Sudan also offers a rare opportunity for India to get even with China. Officials cited the fact that in February Juba expelled the chief of the Chinese owned biggest oil firm in South Sudan for facilitating “oil theft” by Khartoum.
One of the reasons Indian authorities have been forced out of their slumber is that OVL’s production this year has gone down considerably (about 4%) because of unrest in countries like Sudan and Syria. It has suffered in Africa because of the differences between Sudan and South Sudan, with Khartoum seeking tariffs for allowing the newly formed nation to use its processing and refining facilities.South Sudan has retaliated by stopping shipment altogether through Sudanese facilities. The differences soon turned into an armed conflict with Sudan even using fighter jets to target South Sudan troops and also its oil fields.
Sources said that Khatua is also likely to visit other African nations as India gives shape to its plans to tap energy resources. Seen earlier as playing only catch up toChina, India started to be looked upon as serious player in Africa only after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s extended visit to the continent last year. During his visit, Singh announced India’s decision to offer $5 billion for the next three years under lines of credit to help Africa achieve its development goals.