Sans bidding, India gets back oil block awarded by Saddam

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SaddamNEW DELHI, August 24; India has managed to stay out of competitive bidding and get back an oil block in Iraq awarded by the Saddam Hussein regime. The Iraqi assurance was sealed with the signing of an MoU during its Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki’s ongoing visit to the country.

India also discussed project exports, an area where it held sway till the U.S. invasion of 2003. Talks specifically touched on the re-entry of some Indian public sector undertakings such as IRCON that became well known in other developing countries after a good showing in Iraq.

During discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. al-Maliki, the two sides discussed joint participation in refineries, fertilizer units and steel projects.

India pressed for a long-term crude oil arrangement on easier credit terms from its second largest supplier.

The field given by Saddam Hussein is called Block 8 in which the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation plans to earmark $1.5 billion for exploration activity. “This is a reflection of the relations we have tried to revive after having been absent from Iraq since 2003,” noted a government source.

The award of the block is in keeping with the hope expressed by Dr. Singh of India aiming for oil and gasfields abroad without getting entangled in the bidding process. India was awarded oil blocks by three secular strongmen of the Arab world — Muammar Qadhafi of Libya, Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Saddam Hussein. Till some time ago, analysts here had written off the possibility of India getting either of them back though the Assad regime is still in power.

India’s quest for four other Iraqi oilfields without participating in bidding made progress. At the signing ceremony in the presence of Mr. al-Maliki and Dr. Singh, an offer for transfer of data for the Middle Furat group of oilfields was agreed upon

The MoU that envisages cooperation in Block 8 and Middle Furat was among the four signed by the two sides. One MoU would enable ways to restore the irrigation potential that was devastated in 2003 and before that by Saddam Hussein in his bid to flush out dissidents.

In addition, Iraq has pre-qualified several Indian companies for one of the largest tenders — the Nasiriya Project Bid.

Flush with oil money, Baghdad has expressed interest in the upcoming 15-million tonne oil refinery at Paradeep, Odisha.

India said it was looking at a 10-year crude supply pact with better terms such as abolition of Letter of Credit and doubling the interest-free credit period to 60 days.

Indian also invited Iraq to invest in an upcoming steel project of Rahstriya Ispat Nigam Limited.

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