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Indian interest in coal

May 18, 2013

THIS refers to Ashfaq Bokhari’s report entitled, “coal lures Indian firm” (Economic and Business Review, May 13) which states that due to proximity to Rajasthan, the Indian coal mining firm, Coal India, is willing to help Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) to extract coal deposits in the Thar area of Sindh.

The report also mentions that Tata Powers, Bharat Heavy Electricals and Arcolaor Mittal are also interested in extracting Thar coal.

Besides Indian firms, Australia, Japan and China are also interested in extracting Thar coal. There is worldwide competition for coal because of rapid industrialisation and depleting oil and gas reserves. Because of physical proximity Indian bidders have an edge over their overseas competitors.

The Indian machinery and engineers can arrive on the site of extraction in a day from Rajasthan or Gujarat by train. The shipment of the machinery from Australia will take months. The Indian engineers will be on friendly terms with the Sindhi and Dhatki-speaking local people and they will give employment to them.

On the contrary, if the SECMC collaborates with the firms of some of Pakistan’s ‘strategic allies’, they will insist on having the 19th century-modelled extra-territorial rights.

They will cordon off pit areas, and throw away the local population. Even a labourer will come from their respective countries.

These days the BBC telecasts a documentary on the Indian Ocean in which it is shown how the Americans and others behave with the local population where they have taken a part of the territory on lease. I hope that these things do not happen in Sindh.

More significantly, Nawaz Sharif will have new openings with India, in general, and Indian Punjab in particular.

Professionally speaking, both of them share a common interest in business and finance, which they will use for the development of Punjabs.

Let the Sindh government also seize the opportunity of inviting Indian firms to extract coal deposits in Thar. Let us lay the foundation of the coal community between Sindh-Rajasthan-Gujarat, which will simultaneously be the Pakistan-India coal and electricity community. And then it may expand into an economic union.

If the membership of the European Union ended the centuries-old Franco-German rivalry, the India-Pakistan economic community, beginning with a coal and power community, can do the same.

DR MEHTAB ALI SHAH Jamshoro