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Vipin Garg asked: What is the relative importance of Sudan and South Sudan to India? How does the conflict there affect India’s interest in the region?

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  • Ruchita Beri replies: Over the years, India has developed close ties with Sudan and in recent years warmed up to the Government of South Sudan as well. The Sudanese cherish the support extended by the Indian Government on various occasions in the past. For e.g. India’s Election Commission had helped organise Sudan’s first general elections in the late 1950s and Indian engineers had played a major role in setting up the country’s sugar industry and railways. Similarly India was one of the first countries to open a consulate in South Sudan and accord recognition to the Government of South Sudan after its independence on 9 July 2011.

    At present, India’s investment in the two Sudans is over $3 billion. In the last decade, India’s investments have been mainly in the energy sector. In 2003, India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) had invested $750 million to acquire 25 per cent equity held by the Talisman group in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC). GNPOC is a consortium that also includes the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Malaysia’s Petronas and Sudan’s Sudapet. It had also invested in other energy assets in block 5A and 5B. Most of these assets are located in South Sudan.
    Therefore, it is natural that conflict and instability in the region will have an adverse impact on India. In the last six months, the relations between Sudan and South Sudan have worsened with armed conflict breaking out intermittently. Unfortunately, the countries have still not resolved their outstanding disputes on three crucial issues - energy, boundary demarcation, and citizenship. India along with the rest of the world should take urgent steps towards pushing the leaders of both the countries to peacefully negotiate and resolve the pending disputes.