India, Russia ready to energise ties

India, Russia ready to energise ties

By KABIR TANEJA | NEW DELHI | 12 January, 2013
OVL purchased Russian-focussed Imperial Energy for Rs 10,320 cr in 2009.
With the US set to become a natural gas exporter, Russia will soon have to look at “old friends” to find markets for its energy products.

New Delhi and Moscow may see a rejuvenation of ties to the closeness the two nations enjoyed in the past, thanks to the shale gas revolution in the United States, sources close to India's energy policies said.

Even as Russia is seen by most Indians as their closest, most dependable and time honoured ally, the fact remains that India and Russia had drifted apart in the past five years, allegedly due to Delhi's growing relations with Washington and Russia's "arrogance" due to its gas exports driven robust economy. Both countries have also in the recent past exchanged unpleasantries over defence deals, specifically the much delayed and now millions of dollar over-budget Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier for the Indian Navy.

Some experts believe that Moscow had grown "indifferent" to its relationship with India as it gained riches from exporting natural gas and oil around the world, particularly to Western Europe. But now with the US ready to become a gas exporter, Western European countries, particularly Germany, will start looking to import from countries like US and Canada.

"It's a matter of time before Moscow has to look back at old friends such as India in search for markets, particularly for gas," says a source close to India's energy policy formulation on condition of anonymity. "Without extremely good relations with emerging markets such as India and China, Russia could be in for a big surprise in the years to come."

Energy experts have already started talking about building new transnational pipelines from Russia, through Central Asia into India. Meanwhile, India has joined the North-South Transport Corridor project which aims to link India to Iran, the Caucasus and Russia via ship, rail and road. This project could also possibly be used as a pipeline route in the future.

It is no secret that the energy sector is a driving component of Indo-US strategic engagements and the same energy may soon be the driving force of a new era of relations between India and Russia, which may leave the Obama administration "perplexed, if not disappointed".

Indian energy companies like ONGC Videsh already have a strong footprint in Russia. In January 2009, OVL, had bought Russia-focused Imperial Energy for Rs 10,320 cr. OVL has also invested in Sakhalin projects along with other Russian companies where it also faced issues in negotiating tax breaks with Moscow.

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