India likely to get more cooking gas from Qatar

November 10th, 2008 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Doha, Nov 10 (IANS) Qatar is likely to increase cooking gas supplies to India following a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim Bin Jabir Al Thani here.”Qatar is one of our principal suppliers of LNG (liquefied natural gas). There are expectations that, after due discussions, the supply of gas might be increased subject to mutual agreement,” said secretary (east) N. Ravi while briefing the media here Monday about the meeting between the two leaders after Manmohan Singh’s arrival here Sunday evening.

“We have also had the advantage and benefit of getting some additional allocations of gas,” he added.

Under a 25-year agreement signed in 1999, Qatar has been supplying 7.5 million tonnes of LNG annually to India since 2004 in two phases - five million tonnes to Dahej in Gujarat and 2.5 million tonnes to Kochi in Kerala.

At 900 million cubic feet, Qatar has the world’s third largest gas reserves. By the end of this decade, it is going to emerge as the world’ largest exporter of LNG with a capacity of over 77 million tonnes annually.

Energy security is but one of the major issues that are being discussed between the two countries in the course of Manmohan Singh’s visit here, the first ever by an Indian prime minister to Qatar.

The other issue that came up for discussion was bilateral investment and financial ties.

“The reserve of funds in Qatar is fairly high. One area of future cooperation under consideration is how a mechanism can be formed by which investments from Qatar can be made into different sectors in India,” Ravi said, adding that infrastructure projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars are available for investment in India under the next Five-Year Plan.

Qatar is among the Gulf nations that have benefited by the spiralling global oil prices over the last year.

These petrodollars have helped the country in tackling the global financial crisis sparked by the credit crunch in the West.

Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani has said his country would be less affected by the global financial crisis than other developing nations because there was no shortage of liquidity.

Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, has bought up to 20 percent in Qatari banks to ensure that they faced no liquidity crunch.

Ravi said given the current global financial scenario, it made sense to have Qatar invest in India.

“In the present international financial situation, it assumes greater importance, particularly when you have the source of funds at one end and the use of funds at the other,” he said.

“With India as a high potential user of funds for infrastructure projects, this visit (of Manmohan Singh) assumes a very important character,” the secretary added.

In Oman, the first leg of his Gulf tour, Manmohan Singh had said there was scope for investment of over $500 billion in India’s infrastructure sector.

According to Ravi, in the financial sector, Qatar has invited Indian financial institutions to set up business in the new financial district in Doha.

“The Qatar Financial Centre has been pointed out as an area where Indian financial institutions, including banks could commence their operations and gain a foothold (in the Gulf),” he said.

This apart, the two sides also discussed opportunities for cooperation in the education sector.

Qatar is actively working to diversify its economy, making it more knowledge-based, to reduce its dependence on oil and gas revenues.

Ways to balance two-way trade were also discussed.

The Indian prime minister is scheduled to meet Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Al Thani prior to his return home Monday evening.

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