Location too sensitive for blocks to be given to any overseas company

India has asked Sri Lanka to keep its sensitivities in mind while allocating oil blocks in the waters that separate the two countries.

India considers the location too sensitive for the blocks to be allocated to any overseas company and at Tuesday’s Joint Commission meeting here, it received a positive response from the Sri Lankan side, according to official sources.

With the conflict in northern Sri Lanka over, Colombo has been toying with the idea of opening the oil and gas rich Gulf of Mannar and the Cauvery basin in a big way for the first time in 25 years.

India’s concerns were aroused after companies from China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Russia told Sri Lankan about their interest in prospecting for hydrocarbons.

The issue failed to make progress last year despite two attempts to set up meetings between Petroleum Ministers of both countries, thanks to an overhang of India’s vote against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council.

India has been wary of overseas interests basing themselves in the narrow strip of water that separates it from Sri Lanka. In fact, in the 1980s, India pressured Sri Lanka into cancelling allocation of a disused oil storage complex at Trincomalee to London because it apprehended that it would be used in future as a fuelling base for western warships. During the Joint Commission meeting, co-chaired by two Foreign Ministers Salman Khurshid and G.L. Peiris, Colombo assured New Delhi that it would remain sensitive to India’s interests in the region as well as its proposal for cooperation.

Besides in the Gulf of Manner, where Cairns has reportedly struck oil, India is interested in the Cauvery basin, not far from its own offshore oil-bearing area by the same name.

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