Venezuela is ready to provide India with more crude oil and is also keen on cooperation in the field of agriculture, said the envoy of the South American nation that is struggling with astronomically high inflation that it blames squarely on the “criminal actions” of the US.
Venezuelan Ambassador to India Augusto Montiel gets impassioned whenever he speaks of the US’ “aggressions” on his country, which has the world’s largest known reserves of petroleum in the world, as well as massive gold and coltan reserves.
“…So that they can get control of the largest oil reserves in the world, the largest gold reserves in the western hemisphere, the largest coltan reserves. Coltan is the most sought after strategic metal used in all kinds of ballistic systems, in mobiles and satellite communication. And Venezuela has the largest reserves,” Montiel told the journal India Review and Analysis in an interview.
“While the other countries will finish their oil reserves in the next 80 years, we have the largest reserves for another 300 years,” the envoy said. Venezuela has proven 300 billion barrels oil reserve, according to data.
“One fifth of the oil that comes to India is from Venezuela. We started selling oil to India 12 years ago, against the will of the US. We have been part of India’s energy security and will continue being part of India’s energy mix. We want to increase production so that all the oil that India needs can be extracted by the Venezuelan oil corporation.”
According to Montiel, Venezuelan oil goes directly to Indian refineries, which are “designed for the crude oil that comes from Venezuela”. Venezuelan crude is very heavy by international standards and needs specialised refineries.
Asked about his government resorting to the use of crypto currency as payment against oil, he said that “Crypto currency exists as a way to bypass the illegal sanctions by the US. The US is sanctioning banks in Europe and elsewhere that accept transferences from Venezuela, so how can we get payment for the oil? So we have created our own state-backed crypto currency in the value of a barrel of oil, so that countries and companies can pay Venezuela for the oil that it exports. It is simply a way for Venezuela to evade (US sanctions) and maintain a practical financial transaction.”
He also discounted reports that Venezuela had offered India a 30 percent discount if it pays in crypto currency.
“Crypto currency is not there between India and Venezuela because India is not using it. Other countries are using it and the Venezuela government is getting paid through it,” said Montiel.
He said there are plans to increase oil cooperation with India.
“We want to bring up the level of oil production in the joint companies that are producing, and are active in the Orinoco Belt, and also the amount of crude that is brought to Indian ports every day.”
He said that both countries are also cooperating in the pharmaceutical sector and in cement.
“We have pharma cooperation, Indian cement companies are in Venezuela. Also in mining – we are offering Indian miners to go to Venezuela and invest in production of gold and diamonds. There are also Indian companies that want to buy Venezuelan petroleum coke.”
He said there are eight Indian pharma companies in his country, including Dr Reddy’s, that are selling products directly or are involved in packaging products.
Among Indian companies, Reliance and Essar are present in the area of refineries in Venezuela.
Speaking of agricultural cooperation, Montiel said: “We want Indian agricultural production to invest in Venezuela, and for the Indian agro industry to be there in my country, from Punjab and Haryana, two highly agricultural states. We want Indian companies to bring in investment and produce there in Venezuela.”
According to Montiel, the proposal is in the process of being discussed. “In March, our Ministers – Foreign Affairs Minister, Petroleum and Trade Ministers - came to India and were exploring different areas.”
He said his government also wants to set up a tractor plant in Venezuela. “Indian farmers can go to special areas in Venezuela and produce in highly fertile land, different crops of different food, to cover large areas that are lying fallow.”
“Venezuela is keen for agricultural cooperation with India. We can buy processed food from India. This is also under discussion. However, nothing is happening as yet.”
On people-to-people connections, Montiel said that the two countries have academic interactions, “with an agreement with the Indian School of Mines, and we are starting bilateral academic cooperation with the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies”.
On tourism, he said that talks are on with persons connected with Bollywood to use their “excellent sites, like the largest waterfall, for Bollywood sets”.
On the high-level exchange of visits with India, Montiel said the then Vice President of India, Mohamed Hamid Ansari, was in Venezuela in 2016 for the NAM summit. Venezuela also participated in the First International Solar Alliance Summit in New Delhi in March this year.
“Sixty-five percent of electricity in Venezuela comes from hydro-electrical power. Though we are an oil producing country we are also very conscious about the need to protect and conserve energy resources. We are also very proud and happy to be part of the International Solar Alliance, and we will be supporting all initiatives by India in this area, and also in the area of multilateralism. Venezuela is part of the think-alike group of countries along with India that work together for attainment of international balance in all these areas.”