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By Deepak Bhojwani
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a crackling diplomatic pace for his government. Barely two months after being sworn in, he was in Brazil in July 2014, where he met 12 Latin American leaders on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit. This triggered a more active engagement with a region benignly ignored by India despite its huge potential.
India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan made a landmark visit to Mexico and Colombia from May 17-22. Both countries are important sources of India’s crude oil imports. Crude imports from Mexico in 2014 exceeded $3 billion. Imports from Colombia exceeded $2.6 billion. These figures are set to increase.
Mexico shares an undersea oil belt with southern USA in the Caribbean. Its hydrocarbons industry was nationalised early in the last century. Its government has opened up this sector last year for the private sector, primarily to attract foreign investment and technology to recover flagging oil production, down from a peak of 3.4 million to 2.5 million barrels per day. Mexico’s hydrocarbon resources are estimated at 115 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE). Three-fourths of these are identified as unconventional (shale oil, shale gas and deep waters).
Colombia´s hydrocarbons sector shone bright earlier this decade. Production of oil and gas crossed the one million barrel per day mark in 2011. At $28.9 billion in 2014, exports of oil and gas constituted 50 percent of Colombia’s total exports. Its relatively low level of proven oil and gas reserves — 2.445 billion barrels and 5.5 tera cubic feet (2013) — is compensated for by a reliable investment regime, backed by a secure economy and stable exchange rate.
With the fall in crude prices, however, several private sector companies are re-evaluating their investment plans. Colombia seeks more investment and is prepared to offer more attractive terms to upstream investors, as was indicated by officials to the delegation.
The presence in both these countries of a delegation of the most powerful Indian oil and gas companies — three of them in the Fortune 500 list — was noted. High level meetings with his counterparts, and the heads of the national oil companies, enabled the Minister to reiterate India’s interest and reassure his interlocutors about India’s commitment to invest capital and technology.
Over 20 percent of India’s crude oil imports worldwide come from five countries in Latin America: Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. India’s energy security has been predicated upon secure supplies, at prices that are as predictable as possible in the volatile hydrocarbons market.
Term contracts concluded with the major Latin American suppliers by Reliance Industries, Essar and the state-run Indian Oil have been timely. In exchange for the mostly heavy, and cheaper, Latin American crudes, India exports petroleum products to that region. The strategy of Indian companies to invest upstream to secure oil equity has also been successful.
India’s major upstream player, ONGC (Videsh), in collaboration with China’s Sinopec — one of the only three Indo-Chinese partnerships in oil and gas — has a 40 percent share in a field pumping 40,000 barrels per day, and exclusive ownership in other onshore fields in Colombia where oil has been discovered recently.
It is also exploring four offshore blocks in Colombia. It has set up an office in Mexico and will participate in the forthcoming round to bid for upstream concessions. Indian Oil, traditionally an importer and refiner of crude, has ventured upstream in Venezuela, and expressed interest in further investments in the region. Reliance invested $50 million in two offshore blocks in Colombia, which it surrendered as unviable. It is scouting further prospects.
The delegation included heads of Indian private sector companies: Cairn India, Adani Group, Great Eastern Energy Corporation, Videocon Industries, Larsen and Toubro and IMC Ltd. Little known aspects of some of their operations have come to light.
Videocon participates in a joint venture in Brazil — with public sector BPCL — that covers seven offshore blocks with oil discoveries in at least two blocks. Larsen and Toubro has supplied Colombia’s national oil company, Ecopetrol with gigantic drums for its refinery in Barrancabermeja. All the companies represented in the delegation expressed interest, which was reciprocated by the Colombian establishment.
India’s presence and weight in the global hydrocarbons industry was evident during the visit. Indian companies have a proven track record in offshore oil and gas exploration in the deepest waters. Seismic exploration and investigation technologies have helped locate and certify hydrocarbon deposits, even reserves in the countries where they operate. Massive refining capacities to process the heaviest Latin American crudes form the matrix for a mutually beneficial exchange of crude for diesel and other petroleum products.
Pradhan’s visit was timely and seems to fit a pattern of engagement with the five oil and gas producing countries that matter in Latin America. The ongoing investigation into corruption allegations against Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company, has not affected India’s Brazilian operations nor imports.
A visit to Brazil is nevertheless on the cards when the situation stabilises. Close on the heels of Pradhan’s visit, Minister of State for External Affairs General (retd.) V.K. Singh, has visited Venezuela and Ecuador. Although Venezuela has the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world, political and economic turmoil have prejudiced Indian operations.
Venezuela owes India´s ONGC over $500 million for its share in oil production. Ecuador insists on service contracts, as against production sharing or royalty based contracts, which Indian companies are reluctant to consider. Continuing engagement is essential to protect and promote Indian interests.
This essential diplomatic thrust augurs well for India’s energy security in a region whose hydrocarbon reserves rival those of the Gulf. Their political stability and friendship are important in an environment in which Indian investments in this vital area have been at risk due to political upheavals or unpredictability. India needs to go deeper into Latin America in its own interest.
(Deepak Bhojwani is a former Indian ambassador who has served extensively in Latin America and has also written a book on India’s growing ties with the region.)
With the festive season on in full swing, iconic brand Johnnie Walker, is all set to re-energize the country's after-hour culture. Through its one-of-a-kind campaign #RevibeTheNight, the brand brings together beloved music artists like Divine, Ritviz, Lisa Mishra, Taba Chake along with popular indie bands like When Chai Met Toast and Mad Boy Mink, among others to perform live across iconic community spaces in India.
The collaborative effort by Johnnie Walker aims to bring back the after-hour culture through live performances across popular hotspots in India. The brand's goal is drive social regeneration in India and bring back the vibe of socializing through local music artists and reignite the trade, driving social culture by executing the live events with Covid measures in place and a limited capacity audience capacity.
The collaborative effort by Johnnie Walker aims to bring back the after-hour culture through live performances across popular hotspots in India. | Photo by Vishnu R Nair on Unsplash
Prior to the world going into lockdown, the after-hour culture in India bloomed at celebrated community hubs, that eventually became a safe-haven for individuals, a place where they found their sense of self-expression and belonging, that fuelled progress. This community was driven through the culture of live music and enthralling performances that created their very own vibe, a vibe that built extraordinary, forever-lasting relationships. Through #ReVibeTheNight, one can reconnect with this community bringing music curated by artists who have a history of captivating crowds with their one-of-a-kind live experiences. Catch the gigs and live performances for artists in these venues/cities for the live performances.
(Artiicle originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: johnnie walker, social, #revibethenight, performances, community, artists, culture, festivity, begin
By Nikhila Natarajan
In a continuing study on the effects of machine learning (ML) on public conversation, Twitter has confirmed that its algorithms amplify right-leaning political content. "In six out of seven countries - all but Germany - tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group," Twitter blogged.
"Right-leaning news outlets, as defined by the independent organisations, see greater algorithmic amplification on Twitter compared to left-leaning news outlets." Since 2016, Twitter users are able to choose between viewing algorithmically ordered tweets first in their home timeline or viewing the most recent tweets in reverse chronological order.
"An algorithmic home timeline displays a stream of tweets from accounts we have chosen to follow on Twitter, as well as recommendations of other content Twitter thinks we might be interested in based on accounts we interact with frequently, tweets we engage with, and more. "As a result, what we see on our timeline is a function of how we interact with Twitter's algorithmic system, as well as how the system is designed."
The new research is based on tweets of elected officials of House of Commons members in Canada, the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag, House of Representatives in Japan, Congress of Deputies of Spain, House of Commons in the UK, and official and personal accounts of House of Representatives and Senate members in the US, as well as news outlets, from April 1 to August 15, 2020.
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. | Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
The study was conducted by Ferenc Huszar (Twitter, University of Cambridge), Sofia Ira Ktena (now at DeepMind Technologies), Conor O'Brien (Twitter), Luca Belli (Twitter), Andrew Schlaikjer (Twitter), and Moritz Hardt (UC Berkeley).
The questions probed were:
How much algorithmic amplification does political content from elected officials receive in Twitter's algorithmically ranked Home timeline versus in the reverse chronological timeline? Does this amplification vary across political parties or within a political party?
Are some types of political groups algorithmically amplified more than others? Are these trends consistent across countries?
Are some news outlets amplified more by algorithms than others? Does news media algorithmic amplification favour one side of the political spectrum more than the other?
Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: algorithmically, timeline, algorithmic, tweets, political, survey, twitter, study, germany, skew
Even as India celebrates reaching a milestone of 100 crore Covid vaccine doses, Snapdeal co-founder and COO Rohit Bansal on Friday lauded a man who facilitated 64 registrations for the vaccine on the CoWin portal. In a video shared on his Facebook and Twitter page, Bansal hailed Sonu Kumar as a "citizen celebrity".
Bansal said that Kumar not only helped "just co-workers and family but complete strangers too. With patience, empathy and uncanny jugaad". He added that Kumar joined him "many moons ago" and completed his open school from a parking lot.
"Education has helped this wonderful man enable others to get India back on track. Bravo! The CoWin portal on Thursday mentioned that a total of 100 crore vaccine doses has been administered so far to the eligible population under the vaccination drive in India, nine months after the nationwide inoculation programme was started to protect the people against Covid-19.
"It's a cause of significant celebration and happiness," Bansal said in the video. He said that while people just help a few around them, Kumar "bridged the digital gap" for 64 people, who were finding it difficult to register themselves online on the vaccine portal. Kumar said he doesn't feel that he has contributed much towards the 100 crore vaccine dose count. "I have been able to help only 64 people, if I was able to help more I would have been happier." (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: cowin, covid, india, people, Rohit bansal, Sonu kumar, vaccine, snapdeal, registrations