Sudan’s government has formally instructed oil companies, including the Indian State-owned ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), to begin preparations to halt the transfer and export of South Sudanese oil through Sudan’s territories within 60 days from June 9 this year, even as officials from the African Union attempt to contain the crisis.

The formal intimation from the oil ministry came days after Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir accused South Sudan of aiding anti-government rebels and announced his decision to stop all cross-border oil transfers.

India’s OVL is a significant player in the region: it constructed the 741 km pipeline from the Khartoum refinery to Port Sudan, and also has significant investments in South Sudan’s land-locked oil fields. India imports about 4 per cent of the oil exported by the two countries.

Both nations have approached the African Union and the Ethiopian government who have, in the past, played a key role in brokering an uneasy peace. On Monday, Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Ali Ahmed Karti, met AU Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Addis Ababa to brief her on the issue, while the South Sudanese negotiation team is also in town to meet Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.