TOI’s
Sanjay Dutta caught up with oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan in Moscow, where he was visiting for the final round of Sherpa talks for the 20th bilateral summit between PM Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin at Vladivostok next week. Excerpts:


What can we expect from the summit meeting between PM Modi and President Putin?


A joint statement on comprehensive energy cooperation will be issued. A five-year complete roadmap will be signed. Several issues will be mentioned. Discussions on those are at a final stage. A new dimension is coking coal. This is at government level. MOUs will be signed at company level also. We (Indian energy delegation led by Pradhan) are preparing for it.


How will it affect India-Russia relations?


Our energy partnership is very old and dependable. They have invested some $13 billion in India. We have invested altogether about $7-8 billion in Russia. We are going to take crude oil to India from Russia. We are also talking to further invest in their exploration sector. We also see big prospect of Russia meeting India’s coking coal need. The far east is their coal belt. Tata Power has started investing in a coal mine. We will see SAIL, NMDC, Jindal coming here. All these companies are examining the commercial aspects of investing in the Russian far east.


Will we see energy deals being actually made at Vladivostok?


Several preliminary agreements, especially in oil, gas and coal, will be signed in the presence of the PM Modi and President Putin. Energy has been a major contributor in the growth of bilateral trade. Now coal and mining has been added.


Has Russia offered partnership in any new oil and gas property?


They have made a big offer with the eastern side (identified as ‘Eastern Cluster’). This is bigger in size (than fields on offer so far), it will have greater tax rebate and the Arctic region will also be involved. There is a big possibility of an understanding being signed in the presence of the PM and President Putin. The commercial aspects are being discussed.


Does this mean the talks on acquiring stake in Vankor Cluster will be shelved or has got stuck?


Those talks have neither been shelved, nor stuck. They have told us continue but also come into the new project. All our (oil) PSUs are talking to Rosneft, Gazprom and Novatek. Vankor is moving towards finality.

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Won’t US sanctions affect our ability to invest in Russian energy projects as Rosneft is under sanctions?
India-Russia relations are on the best of terms in their 60 years of mutual cooperation. There is a special chemistry between PM Modi and President Putin. It is a win-win deal happening. We have conceptualised an energy bridge. Economic cooperation will happen. knowledge, technology, expertise will be shared.

Some 400 districts will soon have CGD network. A massive number of vehicles will switch to natural gas (CNG), reducing demand for petrol and diesel and sales volume of existing petrol pumps. At the same time, staterun retailers are adding about 15,000 petrol stations in an overcrowded market. Isn’t it a market overkill?
You are underestimating India’s energy appetite. Today, we are world No. 3 in terms of consumption at the current level of use. But our per capita (fuel) consumption is still a third of the global average. You are forgetting the strong incremental demand, the double-digit growth, move towards becoming $5-trillion economy. You will need more outlets to reach people. There is no overkill.





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