New Delhi: India and Venezuela have stepped up cooperation in various sectors, including pharmaceutical industry and education and a new student exchange programme involving a petroleum university in the country, expected to begin soon.

"After the US and China, India is the biggest importer of oil from Venezuela. India has shown interest in expanding the economic ties, especially in this sector. But our cooperation is in other field as well, including cultural and educational," Venezuelan Ambassador Augusto Montiel said.

Venezuela is one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world, the diplomat said, adding the ties between the two countries are growing. India constitutes about 10-12 per
cent of the total volume of oil exported globally from Venezuela.

"We already signed an MoU with ISM Dhanbad for an exchange programme earlier and the select students visited Venezuela recently as part of it.

"And now we are in the process of finalising another agreement, to have an exchange programme for both undergraduate and postgraduate students of a petroleum university in India. By June, we should have the first batch of these students, about 30, in our country," Montiel told PTI in an interview.

In pharmaceutical sector, he said, private Indian firms are showing interest in setting up businesses in the Latin American country. "A pharma major has recently set up production plant in our country. And culturally too, we are enhancing our ties.

Last year, we did 'Venezuela-India Blend Ensemble', a cultural event, and we were there at the Kokata Book Fair too. We want both countries to know each other better," he said.

ONGC Videsh Ltd, overseas arm of state-owned ONGC, along with Indian Oil Corp and Oil India Ltd, holds 18 per cent stake in Venezuela's Carabobo-1 oil project, which currently
produces about 16,000 bpd of oil and is expected to reach 90,000 bpd by end of 2017.

"The growing ties between the two countries was recently exhibited when India accepted our request to have a public square named our great leader and freedom icon Simon Bolivar.
And we already have a street in Delhi named after him," Montiel said.

Located in Chanakyapuri's diplomatic enclave, Simon Bolivar Square was inaugurated last April to mark 206th anniversary of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence.

"The Simon Bolivar Square stands for the strategic fraternal ties between India and Venezuela. It also underlines that the memory of Simon Bolivar will continue to guide
between Indian and those countries that he liberated in Latin America," Montiel had said on the Square's inauguration.