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`Indo-Sudan rlys pact key to economic cooperation'

Our Bureau

Kolkata , March 30

THE agreement signed between Indian Railways, through Rites (Rail India Technical and Economic Services) and Ircon, and the Sudan Railways for total revamp of the Sudanese railway system is viewed as a major forward initiative towards greater economic cooperation between the two countries.

Besides railways, the other major areas of cooperation between India and Sudan are oil (upstream and downstream projects), sugar and telecom. ONGC, with investments close to $1.5 billion, already has a large presence in the Republic of Sudan, which is an exporter of oil.

It is already contracted to build the Khartoum-Port Sudan oil pipeline.

Participating in an interactive session on `Indo-Sudanese Relations', organised by the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BNCCI) here, Mr Abdal Mahmood Abdal Haleem Mohammad, Ambassador of Sudan in India, said an agreement on a line of credit (said to be in several million dollars) has already been agreed to by the Government of India for the railway project, which involves locomotives, wagons, construction of new lines and other rail infrastructure related work. He said a preliminary agreement for $10 million by the Indian side, for equipment purchase, has already been signed.

Citing the huge potential for closer economic cooperation that existed between Sudan, a part of the West Asia Africa North Africa (WANA) region and India, the Ambassador said Indian business groups such as Reliance, Kirloskar and the Tatas have already shown interest in setting up ventures in Sudan. Sudan is now inviting investments in information technology, agri-processing, human resource development and pharmaceuticals.

While the Tatas are keen on collaboration in the automobiles sector, Kirloskar is already committed to large-scale supply of irrigation pumps for Sudan's huge agricultural programme. The Ambassador said India has helped the Sudanese sugar industry in a big way, after the setting up of the mega White Nile Sugar Factory.

Describing the sugar factory as a major success story of Sudanese industry, he said the unit is equipped to produce some four lakh tonnes of sugar annually. Sudan is also committed to accord high priority to foreign investments in the power generation sector.

ndia-Sudan bilateral trade during 2002-03 was $350 million, with India enjoying a favourable balance.

The Indian export basket includes items such as machinery and instruments, drugs & pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, transport equipment, man-made yarn, metals and fabric-made-ups.

Sudanese export items comprise items such as cotton (raw and waste), cashewnuts, organic chemicals, raw hides and skins, ferrous ores and metal scraps.

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