NEW DELHI: While admitting that the decision to send a special envoy to South Sudan and Sudan to broker peace between the two nations was a policy departure for India, the government said on Wednesday that this had become unavoidable not just to advance the nation’s larger strategic interests in Africa, but also because Juba’s decision to halt oil production was resulting in a loss of $400,000 to New Delhi every day.
Briefing the media, government sources said the South Sudan authorities had conveyed to the special envoy and additional secretary in the MEA, Amarendra Khatua, that India’s interests would be taken care of. Owing to differences with Sudan, which is demanding a tariff of $36 barrel from the newly-formed nation for exporting oil, Juba halted all production and shipment last month.
TOI had reported on Monday that India had finally gone ahead and appointed a special envoy for the two countries. “When we saw that violence between the two countries was escalating, we decided to send a special envoy. Both the nations had earlier solicited help from India and we reacted positively,” said a government source, adding that ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) has an investment of $2.5 billion in what was earlier undivided Sudan.
After being carved out from Sudan, South Sudan acquired more than 80% of the oil fields. However, it lacks any refining and reprocessing capabilities, and is dependent on Sudan for these activities.
“There were three main reasons to send a special envoy – ensure our oil interests are protected, communicate our support for the peace initiative between the two nations and strengthen our technical support to them,” said the source.
The US had on Tuesday welcomed India’s move to appoint a special envoy to South Sudan and Sudan.
Sources added India is not in favour of South Sudan manufacturing its own pipeline to shed its dependence on Sudan for exporting oil, which accounts for 98% of its GDP.
“The Chinese have offered to build them a pipeline in 14-16 months through Kenya but we don’t think it is possible. We believe it will take them many more years with security too being an issue. We believe the two countries will have to soon arrive at some sort of understanding to deal with the situation,” said the source.
The Chinese had appointed a special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan last year, and he has already visited the two four times.