India’s energy security efforts get Kazakhstan boost

April 9th, 2008 - 1:34 am ICT by admin  

(Lead)
By Vishnu Makhijani
Astana/Almaty, April 8 (IANS) India’s efforts at ensuring its energy security received a major boost Tuesday with oil-rich Kazakhstan offering to assist in the process, provided infrastructure and other issues were first resolved. At a meeting here with visiting Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev also spoke about the two countries collaborating in the area of food production and sought greater Indian expertise in the fields of textiles, education and IT.

The two countries also pledged to work together in countering terrorism in the “troubled hotspots” of the region, a senior official of the external affairs ministry who is accompanying the vice president on the visit, told reporters today.

“The president was very forthright on the energy and food production areas and mentioned that while a lot of groundwork has been done (on the energy front), still more needs to be done,” the official said after the meting between the two leaders that was held in an “extremely warm and cordial atmosphere”.

“At one point during the meeting, the president remarked that from the southern-most point in Kazakhstan to New Delhi, the flying time was just two hours. He was perhaps indicating that there could be more closeness as in ancient and medieval times,” the official said.

According to him, the foremost of the issues that had to be first resolved on the energy front “is that of surface transportation. We need to work on that - whether it will be through Iran, or through Turkmenistan, or through other routes,” the official contended.

“The president highlighted the fact that we need to work on specific surface transportation routes,” he added.

As for the possibilities that would arise once this issue was resolved, the official said: “The president mentioned that Kazakhstan was currently exporting 50 million tonnes of oil annually and that this could rise to 100 million tonnes in 10 years. This could signal hydrocarbons exports to India if the infrastructure issues are worked out.”

Ansari is on a six-day visit to cash-rich Central Asia to boost India’s engagement with the region and to expand cooperation in the economic and educational sectors.

Ansari Tuesday night arrived in Almaty, where the Kazakh state university will confer an honorary doctorate on him on Wednesday. He returns home Thursday.

On the food production front, the official said that while Kazakhstan was currently producing more than it required, it still had vast tracts of land that were uncultivated.

Nazarbayev spoke of the need for collaborating in this area but did not make any specific proposals. The official, however, gave an indication of the possibilities that exist by saying: “We have the technology, they have the land.”

The implication was that Kazakhstan would be open to New Delhi leasing its lands for growing wheat and other products that would be subsequently exported to India.

On the question of terrorism, the official said there was “commonality of views” between the two leaders on dealing with the “troubled hotspots” of the region under the framework of the India-Kazakhstan joint working group (JWG) on countering terror.

On the roadmap for future India-Kazakhstan ties, the office said: “At some point, the president will visit India. Before that, we have to work on more Indian investments in Kazakhstan and on greater economic cooperation.”

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