'Israel to export natural gas to India'

Steinitz met last week with Indian officials about gas deal, 'Economic Times' reports; India FM set to visit Israel.

Tamar 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tamar 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel has offered to export natural gas to India, according to a Monday report in the Indian daily Economic Times.  Negotiations for the gas deal are set to intensify when India's foreign minister visits Israel in January, according to the report.
The offer was said to be made by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz during his visit to India last week. India has since announced its intention to conduct further research on the possibility of a gas deal, and may soon send a delegation to meet with officials in the Prime Minister's Office, the Finance Ministry, and the Energy and Water Ministry. Finance Minister Steinitz confirmed Monday that Israel and India are engaged in talks about the potential gas deal, and said that he "would be happy to receive delegations from India" about the issue.
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The Times stated that India currently receives most of its natural gas from Gulf countries such as Qatar and Oman, but the country is still experiencing gas deficiencies. Plans for a major India-Iran gas deal soured following a recent Indian condemnation of the Iranian nuclear program at the UN. A planned gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan was also scrapped due to security considerations. Finally, India's domestic supply of natural gas, primarily from the Krishna-Godavari basin, has seen a decrease in production following pricing disputes.
News of the potential gas deal follows recent statements by Israeli political leaders about the importance of diversifying the Israeli economy and increasing exports to Asia. Last week, at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the global economy will stall in the near future, and that Israel should concentrate its efforts on sending exports to China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies.
Netanyahu's statements echoed comments made last month by Finance Minister Steinitz, who stated that a crash of the European economy could cause a "5-10 year recession" not only in Europe but in the US and Israel as well. Steinitz added that Israel has been working steadily to increase exports to developing economies, saying that “one of our main efforts is to push Israeli exports to the rest of the world, because 70 percent of Israel exports goes to the developed world and we are trying to encourage exports to China, India and South America in order not to be dependent only on Western nations.”
He said the plan had been successful thus far, with exports to developing nations rising from 30% to more than 40% in the last two years.
Recent discoveries of gas in the Leviathan and Tamar fields have the potential to turn Israel into an important player in the natural gas industry. Estimates show that Leviathan has some 16 trillion cubic feet of gas, worth over $160 billion. Tamar has an estimated eight trillion cubic feet of gas, and production will begin in 2013.

Nadav Shemer and Shlomo Maital contributed to this report.