India builds on Sudanese oil interests


India is in talks with Sudan about increasing its energy interests there, the Indian government said on Tuesday, having invested more than $2.5bn in the African state’s oil over the past six years.

The two governments signed a deal in New Delhi on Tuesday to pave the way for increased oil production and exploration and infrastructure development.

Oil investment in Sudan is controversial. China has been attacked for investments seen as helping to prop up an unpopular regime accused of human rights abuses and war crimes. However, participation by energy-hungry India has gone largely unnoticed.

Sudan fought one of Africa’s longest running civil wars, which claimed the lives of millions until 2005, when a peace deal was signed between the Arab-led north and rebels in the Christian and animist south.

More recently, President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party was issued with an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for allegedly masterminding a campaign of rape, murder and displacement in Darfur, a western region of Sudan plagued by conflict over the past six years.

The Sudanese leader now ranks alongside Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslavian president, and Charles Taylor, the former Liberian leader, the only two other heads of state indicted for war crimes while in office by international tribunals.

“India is your long term partner for energy co–operation . . . We guarantee demand in the buyer-seller equation,” Dr Shashi Tharoor, India’s minister of state for external affairs, said on Tuesday at a conference on Delhi’s pursuit of energy resources in Africa. New commitments to invest in Africa came only days after the World Bank said it was in talks to finance the expansion of Indian Railways to help it improve transport systems in Africa.

ONGC Videsh, the state-owned Indian oil company, is the main Indian investor in Sudan. The company is also eyeing a lucrative joint stake with state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation in Ghana’s Jubilee field, which is owned by Kosmos Energy of the US.

Murli Deora, India’s oil minister, said: “We are particularly keen to participate in upcoming exploration and production opportunities in Angola, Ghana, Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire. We offer . . . expertise in several fields.”

Angelina Jang Teny, Sudan’s minister of energy, encouraged Indian companies to “exploit responsibly” the African state’s hydrocarbon wealth and said there was great potential for her country's relationship with Asia's third-biggest economy.