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India to boost oil, defence ties with Ecuador

Special Correspondent

ONGC Videsh team to leave for Ecuador soon for negotiations of contracts


Ecuador signs contract to buy Dhruv

Bright prospects for defence exports


— Photo: PTI/Atul Yadav

PUSH FOR TIES: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee with his Ecuador counterpart, Maria Isabel, in New Delhi on Monday.

NEW DELHI: Foreign Minister of Ecuador Maria Isabel Salvador met her counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee, on Monday with a close relationship in oil and defence between these geographically distant countries high on the agenda. On the oil front, the new government in Ecuador has reversed the earlier revenue-sharing arrangements with western oil companies and is now keen on striking new partnerships with state-owned companies from China, Russia and India.

Oil-rich Ecuador has opened talks with ONGC Videsh which the Ambassador of Ecuador Carlos Abad described as “good for us because we now prefer state-owned companies.”

An ONGC Videsh team will leave for Ecuador in the next few weeks for negotiations of contracts. Mr. Abad is hopeful of deals being inked in case a presidential visit is worked out for the second half of next year. Chinese company Sinopec and Petrobras from Brazil have already established a foothold and negotiations are on with a Russian company for a 20 per cent stake in a Spanish-Argentinean joint venture.

In the defence sector, Ecuador became the first country to sign a contract for purchasing the indigenously made Dhruv helicopters of which one will be for use by its President. The Embassy here has expanded its setup with the appointment of a Military Attache and prospects appear bright for more defence exports as Ecuador has agreed to be the servicing hub in South America for Indian defence equipment.

The distance and language barriers between India and Ecuador were, however, broken by the medium that knows no barriers — information technology. The first-ever Indian restaurant set up in Quito now caters to a substantial expatriate population that is running software development centres. In addition, TCS has bagged a $150 million order from Banco Pichincha. Impressed by the work ethics of the Tata Group company, Banco Pichincha has now opened talks on setting up an auto ancillary unit. “The global financial crisis has led to even the Tatas having problems. It will be interesting for the Tatas to open a new market,” Mr. Abad said.

“We have departed from the neo-liberal policies that were not working in Latin America. We had a very heavy debt burden but the new government has changed the priorities. Earlier, the first call on our revenues was by the international banks but now we focus on health, education and eradication of poverty. Of course, the big banks in New York did not like it. But that is their problem. Besides, the President stopped the free trade arrangement negotiations with the U.S. Yet, 50 per cent of our trade is with the U.S. That is why we want to have a special relationship with Asia,” he said.

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