New Delhi, January 7:

India’s petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar is to visit China next week on a trip seen as aiming to firm up energy cooperation between the Asian giants.

The two countries, often fierce rivals in the race for global fuel supplies, said in April they would team up to bid for some energy projects as they seek to keep their economies booming while still competing for others. “I am leaving for China on Tue-sday and will be there till January 13,” Aiyar said.

The trip comes after India and China won a joint bid to buy Petro-Canada’s 37 per cent stake in Syrian oil fields for $573 million last month. The acquisition by India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONG-C) and China National Petroleum Corp, both state-own-ed, marked the first time the countries bid together and opened the way for further collaboration, analysts said.

The countries have been aggressively competing to secure foreign oil and gas assets. India relies on imports to cover 70 per cent of its oil needs while China gets over two-thirds of its oil from imports. Aiyar has said he wants to get both nations to collaborate in pursuing foreign energy sources as he feels their fierce rivalry has benefited sellers.

China has been regularly outbidding its neighbour, most recently last August when ONGC lost out on Kazakhstan’s third-largest oil producer, Petrokazakhstan, also a Canadian firm. Likely deals to be concluded on Aiyar’s trip include pacts between ONGC and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd and China National Petroleum Corp.