By Atul Aneja and Mahua VenkateshNew Delhi, April 7: Even as the ghastly terror attacks ripped through the resort town of Palma in Mozambique, Indian businesses including oil majors ONGC Videsh and Oil have decided to stay put in the resource rich African nation.
Both the state-owned oil majors have been engaged in the $24.1 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project on the Afungi peninsula in Mozambique, which was being led by French energy titan Total SE.The project will yield 12.88 million tonnes of LNG per annum.
There has been no loss of life among Indians working in the project.Partly, the Covid-19 pandemic has been responsible for the zero-casualty numbers.
“There were no OVL employees at the site, most of them had returned to India.Work had practically stopped and that apart since Total has been the main player, it was being driven by the employees of the French firm,” he told India Narrative on condition of anonymity.
Sources also said that the ministry of external affairs is in constant touch with the authorities in Mozambique.“The Indian high commission is doing everything it can to ensure safety of every Indian residing in Mozambique,” one of them said.
Meanwhile, Total has recalled the entire staff force post the attacks that were orchestrated by terrorists having links with the Islamic State.
The attacks at Palma on March 24, according to the Mozambique Oil and Gas Chamber, were aimed at derailing the LNG project, which can potentially give a huge economic boost to the resource-rich nation, pushing it from being one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income economy.
The terror attacks left many dead after militants stormed into shops, banks and even a military barracks.
Seven people were killed when they tried to escape a siege on one of the hotels.
Violence and terror attacks have increased in Mozambique since 2017.
More than 2,500 people have died since 2017-when the insurgency started.About 700,000 people have also been displaced.
Analysts point out that Indians are unlikely to pull out the project, as they have factored in the instability in some of the areas where OVL has landed its footprint.“We could not afford to go to established areas, which were prohibitively expensive,” says R.S.Sharma, former Chairman of Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) in a conversation with India Narrative.com.“So we started with Sakhalin in Russia, where the parent Rosneft which was going bankrupt could do with our investments.That turned out to be a success story,” he observed.
Encouraged by the success, OVL then moved into Sudan where a Canadian oil major was going cheap following Muslim-Christian riots in country.The diehard OVL subsequently moved into Mozambique.
The Mozambican Oil and Gas Chamber has strongly condemned the attacks.
NJ Ayuk, executive chairman, African Energy Chamber, in an article published by Africanews said that the terror attacks on Palma are not simply targets of opportunity.“They are strategic targets.The goal is to destroy Mozambique’s government’s ability to produce, export gas, fight poverty, create jobs and to make it clear that the government cannot protect oil company personnel or assets.”
Ayuk added that terrorism act must be condemned in all forms.“These terrorist attacks if not taken seriously will cost the Mozambican government billions of dollars in lost investment and LNG earnings,” he said.
According to Africanews, as the largest Foreign Direct Investment on the African continent, the LNG project positions Mozambique to become the third largest gas exporter globally by 2045.
A Bloomberg report published by World Oil, a weekly published by Gulf Energy Information, the African nation has been “battling an Islamic State-linked insurgency since October 2017.” It said that over the past year, attacks have grown increasingly sophisticated, while also drawing towards the coastal site, very close to the project.
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