New Delhi: As India scouts for new energy sources to sustain its economic growth, hydrocarbon-rich Mozambique today promised to provide Indian companies greater access to various oil, gas and coal exploration projects besides seeking fresh impetus to bilateral trade ties.
After holding wide-ranging talks with Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the African nation can be a "large source" of coal and natural gas to drive India's growth and that both sides agreed to step up engagement in a range of key sectors.
The two sides inked an MoU to have deeper engagement in the field of renewable energy besides exploring ways to cooperate in areas such as defence, maritime security in the Indian Ocean region, agriculture, railways and ocean economy.
Mozambique is estimated to have 200 trillion cubic feet of off-shore gas reserves and has the potential to become a leading LNG producer globally on par with Qatar and Australia.
It is rich in coal and has the largest coal reserves in Africa after South Africa.
"Mozambique can be a large and a proximate source of natural gas, coal and other minerals that are so important to drive our growth. It also offers huge opportunities in agriculture sector," Modi said, asserting that India will continue its support to the country in accordance with its priorities.
In the gas sector, ONGC Videsh Ltd, the Oil India Ltd and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) have invested upto USD 8 billion in various projects in Mozambique. Coal India Limited has also been active the country besides an consortium of PSUs.
Calling the discussions "fruitful and positive", Nyusi said it was decided to enhance cooperation in a number of areas including oil and gas and that Indian companies will be welcomed for more investment there. Nyusi's visit here is his first to an Asian country after assuming office in January.
"We spoke of our economic synergies and cooperation. I expressed hope that Mozambique would continue to provide an encouraging environment for investments from India, including in the areas of hydrocarbons, minerals and infrastructure," the Prime Minister said.
Secretary (West) in Ministry of External Affairs Navtej Singh Sarna said specific projects in coal and gas and railways sectors were discussed.
In the agricultural sector, the African nation has sought extensive participation of Indian companies to grow pulses, vegetables and fruits in its arable land, Sarna told reporters.
Sarna said talks between Modi and Nyusi, both in restricted and delegation-level formats, mainly focused on economic aspect of the relationship.
Bilateral annual trade between the two countries has multiplied five times in the last five years as it increased to USD 2.4 billion in 2014-15 from USD 400 million five years back. Mozambique hosts nearly 25 per cent of Indian investments in Africa.
Sarna said both sides deliberated on removing obstacles in implementing specific projects.
Referring to defence cooperation, Modi said both sides agreed to build on Nyusi's visit here as Defence Minister in 2011 and that the next meeting of the Joint Working Group on Defence Cooperation will be scheduled soon.
Since India and Mozambique have large coastlines and are linked by the Indian Ocean, ways to intensify cooperation in maritime security and ocean economy also figured prominently during the discussions.
Sarna said India may impart training to defence personnel from the country as part of defence cooperation.
Modi said India accords highest priority in its foreign policy to Africa and the Indian Ocean and Mozambique was crucial to both.
"The visit is special because this is the 40th anniversary year of independence of Mozambique and the 40th anniversary year of the establishment of our diplomatic relations," Modi said.
Talking about the MoU on renewable energy, Modi termed it an important area towards sustainable development. ` "It assumes special importance this year as the international community moves to finalise a Climate Change agreement in Paris later this year. India has already partnered Mozambique in setting up a solar panel assembly plant," said Modi.
He futher said, "We underlined the need for an effective climate change accord in Paris later this year, which also provides the means and technology to developing countries to transition to clean energy sources."
A number of regional and global issues also figured in the meeting.
Modi said he sought Mozambique's support to press for "urgently needed reforms" in the United Nations, especially the Security Council.
The Mozambique President, who arrived here yesterday on a four-day visit, extended an invitation to Modi to visit his country as soon as possible.
Nyusi, who had spent sometime in IIM, Ahmedabad, will leave for there tomorrow. He will also meet Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel besides take part in other engagements.