Indian Minister Sees New Energy Cooperation Era

India's petroleum minister called Jan. 10 for a new era of energy cooperation with China to avoid costly competition for fuel assets as he prepared to visit Beijing. India has dubbed 2006 the "Year of Friendship with China" with which it has often been a bitter rival in the race for global fuel supplies. The countries, which rely heavily on energy imports to sustain their fuel-guzzling economies, have become the world's most aggressive seekers of foreign oil and gas properties.

Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar called on China to cooperate in bidding for overseas energy reserves to prevent rivalry in which the two sides bid up prices, making energy acquisitions unnecessarily expensive. The countries whose economies are the world's two fastest growing declared last April they would team up to bid for some energy assets. "Instead of playing the 'Great Game' of bitter rivalry, we wish to prepare a mode of cooperation which is adapted to 21st century imperative of countries of Asia living in peace and cooperation," Aiyar said. ["The Great Game" was a term coined to describe the 19th-century rivalry between Britain and Russia for dominance in Central Asia where the spoils sought now are the Caspian energy reserves.]

Aiyar's trip comes after India and China won a joint bid last month to buy Petro-Canada's 37% stake in Syrian oil fields for $573 million. The acquisition by India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp and China National Petroleum Corp, both state-owned, was the first time the nations bid together. But some analysts described it as a consolation prize for New Delhi after China's regular outbidding of India, most recently last August when it won Kazakhstan's third-largest oil producer.

The two sides are expected to sign a slew of memorandums of understanding on energy cooperation, including between ONGC Videsh Ltd, India's flagship firm for overseas oil and gas field acquisitions, and its Chinese counterpart, China National Petroleum Corp.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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