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India balances US energy ties with $25 billion Russian gas deal

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DAHEJ (GUJARAT): India on Monday started receiving long-term gas supplies from Russia’s Gazprom, the world’s top publicly-listed natural gas company, under a $25-billion deal that indicates New Delhi’s quest for newer routes towards energy security and balancing ties with Washington and Moscow.

“Today will be remembered as a golden day for India’s energy security roadmap,” oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said after receiving ‘LNG Kano’, the cryogenic ship carrying the first cargo of LNG (liquefied natural gas) under a 20-year deal with state-run GAIL here on Monday.

Recalling Russia’s extended contribution in developing India’s oil and gas sector, beginning with the discovery of Mumbai High field in the 1970s, Pradhan said the long-term gas supply establishes an energy bridge between the two countries as part of PM Modi and president Putin’s plan for forging closer strategic economic cooperation.

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Pradhan said India will import gas worth $1.5 billion a year under the deal signed by GAIL in 2012, a year after the state-run utility tied up long-term supplies from two US shale gas projects. All India’s long-term gas deals are in operation, with Gazprom offering the most competitive terms.

Pradhan’s statement underlines an effort to put balm on Moscow’s growing unease over the Modi government’s growing closeness to Washington, especially in areas of defence supplies and now energy. Indian refiners began importing small quantities of US crude last year. In April, GAIL received its first cargo of shale gas from mainland US.

The gas deals vindicate GAIL chairman B C Tripathi’s bold and forward-looking decision to tie up diverse sources such as the US and Russia with the aim of reducing India’s dependence on West Asian gas and secure supply security. Pradhan echoed this by saying gas imports from Russia will go a long way in mitigating the risks arising out of geo-political uncertainties.

The beginning of Russian gas supplies will add to India’s bargaining power with its predominantly West Asian energy suppliers and help the Modi government’s efforts at raising the share of clean-burning gas in India’s energy basket from 6.5% to 15% by 2030 to reduce the economy’s carbon footprint and rapidly expand city gas networks.

Gazprom’s supplies to India begin a day before Putin is set to mark 50 years of gas exports to Eurozone at an event in Vienna on Tuesday in an effort to cement ties with his country’s main gas market as US threatens sanctions on a $11-billion pipeline project for feeding more gas directly into the heart of Europe.

Updated: June 4, 2018 — 10:45 pm

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