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Indian minister heads to Beijing for energy
Updated: 2006-01-08 09:12

India's Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar will visit Beijing next week on a trip seen as aiming to firm up energy cooperation between the two Asian giants.

The two countries, once rivals in the race for world market fuel supplies, said in April they would team up to bid for energy projects, in a show of neighborly good-will as the two keep to seek energy supplies for their respective booming economies.

"I am leaving for China on Tuesday evening and will be there till January 13," Aiyar said late Friday, according to an AFP report.

The trip comes after India and China won a joint bid to buy Petro-Canada's 37 percent stake in Syrian oil fields for 573 million dollars in December.

The acquisition by India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and China National Petroleum Corp, both state-owned, marked the first time the countries bid together and opened the way for further collaboration, analysts said.

The countries have been competing to secure overseas oil and gas assets. India relies on imports to cover 70 percent of its oil needs while China gets up to two-thirds of its oil from imports.

Aiyar has said he wants to get both nations to collaborate in pursuing foreign energy sources as he feels their fierce rivalry has benefited sellers.

Likely deals to be concluded on Aiyar's trip include pacts between ONGC and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd and China National Petroleum Corp while Indian Oil Corp will court China Petroleum Chemical Corp (Sinopec), the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said.

GAIL (India) is expected to sign preliminary deals for cooperation in exploration and production, city gas distribution and gas transportation with Sinopec, CNOOC and Beijing Gas, PTI said.

Some analysts have been doubtful about whether a partnership between the neighbours who fought a brief border war in 1962 can work. Many in China have expressing growing interest to develop friendly relations with India. Others say teaming up by the world's two largest developing countries could give them greater negotiating clout over any sellers.

As a boost to Sino-Indian relations, New Dehli and Beijing have agreed to launch the year of 2006 as a "China-India Friendship Year".

The Indian minister will travel first to Beijing for talks. His trip will also include a visit to Urumqi, capital of the northwestern Xinjiang region, the Hindustan Times said. Xinjiang is China's energy production hub and seen as a gateway to petroleum and gas pipelines from Central Asia.

The two countries both with populations of more than one billion people account for nearly 35 percent of the growth in global energy demand, analysts say.

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