India approves gas buy as deportations loom

India’s cabinet has approved fresh investment in Burmese oil and gas. This comes as the Shwe Gas Movement group announced that as many as 10 villages will face forced relocation in Kyauk Phyu Township and Matay Island.

An Indian government spokesperson confirmed the approval to Reuters. It will see the state controlled Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) invest $832.5 million and the gas transport corporation GAIL $502.06 million additional funding in the project.

The state-owned enterprises have been seeking involvement in the Shwe gas pipeline which is being constructed by Korean company Daewoo and will look to gain a 15 percent stake in the controversial project.

Wong Aung of the Shwe Gas Movement confirmed that “last year the authorities came and brought along a paper and villagers were forced to sign it, confirming that their land would be confiscated”… “they have been asked to move by April”.

“Compensation was only promised in a verbal agreement” he added.

Activists have also raised environmental and human rights concerns over the project, as well as allegations that the junta has misappropriated revenues.

Matay Island in western Arakan state will be the sight of the project’s oil & gas terminal, the start of the pipeline that will extend to China’s Yunnan province. The work on the terminal is being done by Burmese conglomerate Asia World; which is black listed under US and EU sanctions.

However state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation holds a majority stake in the construction of the dual oil and gas pipelines which will transfer oil shipped from the Middle East and Africa as well as natural gas from the Shwe Gas fields.

ONGC’s share price rose on the Mumbai stock exchange, the Sensex, as government approval transpired. India has long tried to secure a share in Burmese gas reserves often competing with regional rival China for contracts. The junta has at times favoured lesser Chinese bids as a tug of war has ensued.

Kim from the Burma Campaign Delhi told DVB that “the Indian mindset is that China is doing everything, why not India also? When it comes to the villages, yes we call for democracy but we have to provide for our national interest”.

The tug of war has also extended to competition over Indian Ocean maritime control. The Chinese are allegedly attempting to create a string of deep sea ports around the Indian Ocean with sights in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Burma and Mauritius.

India however perhaps conscious of Chinese projects and the possibility that these will be used for naval purposes recently announced that it would offer protection to Chinese shipping in the Indian Ocean. Pallam Raju, India’s minister of state for defence was quoted by the Financial Times saying that he “understands that [China] needed to protect its oil interests”.


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