A senior Israeli Minister arrived here on Monday to discuss energy ties as well as link-ups in developing rural and urban infrastructure.

Minister for National Infrastructure Uzi Landau, who also holds the Energy & Water Resources portfolio, will take forward the interest expressed by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in the energy sector during his visit to Israel last month. The two sides are likely to discuss the possibility of setting up a joint group for a tie-up in the energy sector that could supplement the already-vigorous cooperation in defence, intelligence, trade and farming. During initial discussions, Israel has indicated its willingness to give the state-run ONGC Videsh an equity stake, informed sources said.

Israel says it has discovered many gasfields and hopes that some of them are commercially exploitable. India's major sources of gas are Oman, Qatar and Australia; talks with Iran have been going on at an excruciating pace, mainly due to Tehran's difficulties with the West.

In addition to holding discussions with Minister for Petroleum S. Jaipal Reddy, Mr. Landau will meet ministers relevant to his infrastructure portfolio: Minister for Urban Development Kamal Nath and Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh, besides Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. He will also call on National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon.

While professing interest in Israeli gas, India will also be wary of getting embroiled in territorial disputes over the location of some gasfields. Lebanon is upset at Israeli claims on one of the gasfields, saying Tel Aviv is coveting even those fields which are located in its territory. However, two of Israel's biggest finds — Tamar and Leviathan — do not seem to be encountering competing claims from other countries.

Being the first ministerial visit from Tel Aviv after an attempt on an Israeli diplomat's life here, discussions on this incident and plans to open a consulate in Bangalore by year-end are expected.

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