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Crude oil opens new vistas in India-US relationship

Washington - The first shipment of American crude oil is likely to reach India in the last week of September, opening new vistas in the Indo-US ties.
With this India, the world’s third-largest oil importer, joins Asian countries like South Korea, Japan and China to buy American crude after production cuts by OPEC drove up prices of Middle East heavy-sour crude, or grades with a high sulphur content.
“New breakthroughs! oil shipments from US to India has started,” the Indian Embassy in Washington tweeted on Wednesday after Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna, handed over papers for the shipment to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
The first lot of two million barrels costs USD 100 million, but given the volume being contemplated by Indian companies, this new development is expected to boost the bilateral oil trade to USD 2 billion.
“Opening New vistas in India US Co-opn,” tweeted the Indian Embassy in Washington DC which also posted several pictures and a video of the event.
Consignments of American crude oil left the US shores between August 6 and 14 and is likely to reach Paradip (Odisha) in the last week of September.
While the 40-year-old ban on export of American oil was lifted by the then US President Barack Obama in December 2015, the real move started during the maiden meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump on June 26 when the two leaders agreed to deepen the engagement in the energy sector.
Soon thereafter, Indian companies started purchasing crude from the US. Two Indian oil giants, Indian Oil Corporation and Bharat Petroleum, placed orders for over four million barrels. The development was welcomed by Trump in his phone call with Modi.
“In his call with Prime Minister Modi on Monday, President Trump welcomed the first-ever shipment of American crude oil to India, which will occur from Texas later this month,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.
“The President pledged that the United States would continue to be a reliable, long-term supplier of energy,” the spokesperson said in response to a question.
“During the Prime Minister’s June visit to the White House, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi committed to a comprehensive review of their trade relations with the goal of creating a fair and reciprocal trading relationship and removing obstacles to growth and jobs creation, including in the energy sector,” the spokesperson added.
The Indian Oil Corporation Ltd placed its first order in July and the second order on August 10. Bharat Petroleum Corp made its first purchase of US oil, buying high sulphur crudes Mars and Poseidon. BPCL has bought a cargo containing 500,000 barrels each of Mars and Poseidon for delivery from September 26 to October 10. Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) is also looking at buying US crude oil.
IOC Director (Finance) AK Sharma told PTI recently that buying US crude had become attractive for Indian refiners after the differential between Brent (the benchmark crude or marker crude that serves as a reference price for buyers in western world) and Dubai (which serves as a benchmark for countries in the east) had narrowed.
Even after including the shipping cost, buying US crude is cost competitive to Indian refiners, he said.
“We are not looking at any term (or fixed quantity) deal from US as of now. We will tender to buy crude and if the US crude is competitive as compared to others, we will buy it,” he said.
Over the next 20 years, India’s energy consumption growth is projected to be the fastest among all major economies. And by 2035, China and India will have the largest share of global demand (35 per cent).
While this is the first crude oil import from the US, Indian companies have made significant investment in purchasing energy assets in the United States. Four Indian public and private sector companies have invested approximately USD 5 billion in shale assets in the US.
Indian companies have also contracted 9 MMTPA of LNG from the US and the first shipment is expected in January 2018. Of this, GAIL has contracted 5.8 MMT per annum, including 3.5 MMTPA of LNG from Sabine Pass Liquefaction terminal (Louisiana) and 2.3 MMTPA from Cove Point LNG liquefaction project (Maryland).
In a tweet a day earlier, Senator Ted Cruz said Texas would provide crucial oil exports to India and serve as a reliable long-term supplier of energy.
In a certificate issued to Sarna on the occasion, the Texas Governor said in the decades to come “this relationship will continue to be one of the world’s most significant” as the United States and India work towards common goals of prosperity, strength and peace.
“As a top exporter to India with over USD 2 billion annually in exports and as the nation’s leader in crude oil reserve and production, Texas looks forward to our growing relationship with India,” Abbott said.

Setback for opposition as 3 MLCs

resign in Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow - The opposition in Uttar Pradesh suffered a setback with three MLCs putting in their papers almost coinciding with BJP national president Amit Shah’s three-day visit to Lucknow.
While MLCs Bhukkal Nawab and Yashwant Singh are from the Samajwadi Party, Thakur Jaivir Singh represented the BSP. 
Another SP MLC Madhukar Jetli is also rumoured to be quitting but till now he has not formally resigned.
While it has not been officially confirmed, all these MLCs are likely to join the BJP during Shah’s presence in the next three days.
Most importantly, the vacancy in the Upper House has solved the BJP’s problem of accommodating CM Yogi Adityanath and deputy CMs Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Singh before September 19, the expiry of six months of their terms in office.
It remains to be seen how the BJP proposes to make room for minister of state with independent charge Swatantra Dev Singh who is also not a member of either house of the state legislature.
The lone Muslim minister, Mohsin Raza, who is also not a member of either house is most likely on his way out after being found involved in a number of Waqf scams.
Bhukkal Nawab considered close to Akhilesh Yadav has been with the SP since 1992 and his term was to end in 2022.
However, his name has been embroiled in illegal construction on the Gomti river front in which a CBI probe has been ordered by the Yogi government.
Yashwant Singh, considered close to independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya, told reporters that he had been feeling alienated in the SP.
Meanwhile, SP national president Akhilesh Yadav has hit out at CM Yogi for “political corruption”.
He said that fearing to face the people the BJP government has indulged in such political corruption not only in UP but in Bihar and Gujarat as well.
Meanwhile, SP MLC Deepak Mishra in a press statement charged the BJP of forcing the SP MLCs to resign by threatening to implicate them in false cases of corruption and land encroachment.

North Korea threatens US with nuclear

strike if leader harmed

Washington - North Korea on Tuesday threatened a nuclear strike on the United States if it attempts to remove country leader Kim Jong Un.
According to a report by the CNN, Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that a spokesman from the North Korean Foreign Ministry said, “The DPRK legally stipulates that if the supreme dignity of the DPRK is threatened, it must preemptively annihilate those countries and entities that are directly or indirectly involved in it, by mobilizing all kinds of strike means, including the nuclear ones.”
“Should the US dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the US with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” the spokesman added.
The threat was in response to comments from Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo, who said last week that the Trump administration needed to find a way to separate Kim from his growing nuclear stockpile.
Recently, the US intelligence also assessed that North Korea had accelerated its intercontinental range ballistic missile programme.

Fresh worry over missing Indians

New Delhi - Doubts have arisen over the whereabouts of 39 missing Indians, taken captive by Islamic militants three years ago, following media reports that the Badush prison in Iraq where they were believed to have been lodged had been reduced to rubble.
Six days ago, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had told kin of the missing construction workers (most of them are from Punjab) that they were probably in Badush, northwest of Mosul. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) did not comment on the media reports. However, some clarity is expected when Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari arrives on a four-day visit to India on Monday.
Reports emanating from Badush say the prison has been destroyed and that there are no prisoners.  Harjit Masih of Gurdaspur district, among those to have fled from captivity three years ago, had told the media back home that his 39 compatriots had been killed.
Last month, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Bagley had said the Indians were alive since there was no information to the contrary.
Going on the offensive, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala today tweeted: “Unfortunate that Sushmaji & MEA continue to mislead the families of 39 Indians missing in Iraq. Not just clueless but also heartless”.
DSGMC president Manjit Singh GK said the government seemed clueless and that the External Affairs Minister should insist on definite information during her meeting with the Iraqi minister.
Cong to move privilege motion against Swaraj
Chandigarh: Partap Singh Bajwa said on Saturday he would bring a privilege motion against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for "misleading Parliament and the nation" about the missing youths. The Rajya Sabha MP said: "The families of the missing Indians as well as the nation wants to know the truth.”

US 'looks forward' to working with Prez-elect Kovind

Washington - The United States has congratulated president-elect Ram Nath Kovind on his electoral victory and said that it looks forward to working with him on regional and global issues.
Kovind, a low-key lawyer-turned-politician, was on Thursday elected as India's 14th President, the first BJP member and the second Dalit to occupy the country's highest office.
"We want to congratulate the President-elect Ramnath Kovind on his victory," State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at a news conference yesterday.
Noting that the US and India have a "deep and growing strategic partnership", she said: "We look forward to working with the president-elect on regional and global issues."          
Nauert credited the close people-to-people contact between the world's two largest democracies with the type of partnership they share.
"That partnership is obviously underpinned by our very close people-to-people contact with the Indian government and our shared democratic values," Nauert said in response to a question.
A former Bihar governor, Kovind, 71, received 2930 votes with a value of 7,02,044, to defeat the joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha speaker, who got 1844 votes with a value of 3,67,314.
Kovind garnered 65.65 per cent of the votes in the electoral college against the BJP's projected 70 per cent vote for him.

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