India and Kazakhstan on Saturday signed seven agreements, one of which formalises the transfer of 25 per cent stake of the Kazakh oil and gas company, Kazmunaigas (KMG), in its Satpayev Exploration Block to ONGC Videsh Ltd. No details of the payment made by ONGC Videsh for the stake were available, but the agreement marked the entry of the Indian state-controlled company into Kazakhstan's hydrocarbons sector.
This and the other six agreements seek to boost economic and strategic ties between the two countries in wide-ranging areas including offshore petroleum exploration in the Caspian Sea and peaceful use of nuclear energy including fuel supply, joint mining of uranium and construction as well as operation of nuclear power plants.
The agreements were signed in the presence of the visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Singh is on a two-day official visit to Kazakhstan, his first to the Central Asian republic.
The hydrocarbons agreement has certain key features. For instance, it fixes the terms of payment by KMG and ONGC Videsh in case of commercial discovery and development of the discovered fields. The agreement also defines the relationship between the two parties and the way operations are to be conducted.
The Satpayev exploration block in the Kazakhstan sector of the Caspian Sea covers 1,482 square kilometres and is at a water-depth of six to eight metres. Situated in a prospective region of the North Caspian Sea, the two blocks are close to major discoveries, oil experts say.
The agreement for co-operation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy envisaged a legal framework under which India and Kazakhstan could use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This was an umbrella agreement that provided for fuel supply (an estimated 1,200 tonnes of uranium from Kazakhstan to India till 2014), nuclear medicine, use of radiation technologies for healthcare including isotopes, reactor safety mechanisms, exploration and joint mining of uranium and, most significantly, construction and operation of nuclear power plants.
The two sides also signed on a joint action plan for furthering the strategic partnership for a three-year period ending 2014. The roadmap details milestones in a range of areas of bilateral co-operation, including space, information technology, cyber security, high-tech and innovative technology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, agriculture and cultural exchanges, in addition to hydrocarbons and civilian nuclear energy.
Four other agreements were signed during Singh's stay here. These are: A memorandum of understanding between the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team of the Indian government and the Kazakh computer Emergency Response Team for exchange of information on cyber security issues, a pact on mutual legal assistance in civil matters in accordance with the laws of the two countries, a treaty between the agriculture ministries of the two countries envisaging cooperation in agricultural science, food processing, crop production, plant protection and agricultural trade, and an agreement between the health ministries of India and Kazakhstan which, among other things, envisages the establishment of co-operation between public health organisations of the two countries.