The governments of both Sudans assured India that its investments in the oil sector would remain safe despite the formal bifurcation of the country on July 9 into Sudan and South Sudan.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti called upon India to step up investments in the northern part during his meeting with the Ministry of External Affairs officials. A day later, the message was reiterated by Priscilla Joseph Kuch, special envoy of the government of South Sudan.

India is Sudan's third largest partner in the oil sector and its companies account for a quarter of the country's oil off-shore industry. But 70 per cent of oil is produced in the south, which voted overwhelmingly to separate and 100 per cent of the facilities such as refineries and pipelines are in the north. The Indian national oil company, ONGC Videsh produces 1.6 lakh barrels of oil every day but 60 per cent is produced in the southern parts.

Besides assuring that Indian oil investments would be safe, Mr. Karti called for more investments in areas such as refineries, agriculture, roads and minerals, especially gold.

On the other hand, in a meeting with External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna, government of South Sudan's special envoy also discounted the impression of a change in situation after the end of the interim period on July 9. It was also pointed out that the Oil Minister of Sudan Lual Deng is a southerner.

“In fact when an Indian oil company had internal problems with its partners, the Oil Minister stepped in and sorted out the problem. We are inviting Indian companies to come to the north. We can also work in related energy sectors,'' said Mr. Karti, who hails from northern Sudan.

India is building a thermal plant 200 km south of Khartoum which will considerably add to the country's current power generation capacity. [North] Sudan is hoping for Indian interest in setting up a refinery as well as well as investing in the agriculture sector where the UAE, Saudi Arabian and Turkish investors are already active.

“Good incentive”

As Sudan's Ambassador to India Khidir Haroun Ahmed told The Hindu, “the good news is that both sides have agreed to leave all current things relating to the oil industry intact. It has been agreed upon by both sides to protect oil fields. And in the interest of all, none would sabotage the oil pipelines. This is a very good incentive to make us good neighbours. May be the second generation will be able to build a new unity on the basis of equality and justice.''

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