Debating India

Consensus on energy cooperation

Sunday 5 June 2005, by MURALIDHAR REDDY*B.

India expresses interest in joining Asian Development Bank-sponsored TAP gas pipeline project

ISLAMABAD: India expressed interest in joining the Asian Development Bank-sponsored Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline even as it held talks with Pakistan on Sunday on exploring possibilities to give a concrete shape to the $4.16 billion Iran-India gas pipeline project.

Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar led the Ministerial-level discussions with his Pakistani counterpart, Amanullah Khan Jadoon, towards forming a new matrix for sourcing cheaper gas from Iran and Turkmenistan. "We have clearly understood that the common interest of India and Pakistan lies in accessing low cost energy, affordable fuel from our extended neighbourhood, which stretches from countries bordering the Caspian Sea to countries bordering the Arabian Sea," Mr. Aiyar, who was Consul-General in Karachi in the 1970s, told reporters here.

New Delhi, which till now was non-committal on the extension of the TAP pipeline to India due to doubts over gas reserves in Turkmenistan and difficulties in transmitting the gas through a pipeline passing through the troubled state of Afghanistan, expressed willingness to get on board the discussions to be held in July.

"India is not at the moment party to TAP. But Jadoon has accepted to arrange for the formal invitation for me to join the Ministerial-level discussions at the next joint committee meeting scheduled to be held in July," Mr. Aiyar said.

A joint statement will be issued at the end of three-day Ministerial-level talks on Tuesday.

Pakistan’s Petroleum Secretary Ahmad Waqar said Islamabad was exploring options on importing gas from Iran, Turkmenistan and Qatar and welcomed India’s participation in the projects. "We need gas anyway. We are considering three projects. ... India will be welcome to join," he said. "Having shared interests as buyers of gas we must build on this," Mr. Aiyar said, adding that Pakistan "has reconfirmed its interest in India becoming party to the discussions on TAP. India has signalled its willingness to consider the matter further."

New Delhi had till now only been talking to Teheran for import of natural gas through the 2,600-km pipeline, 760 km of which is to pass through Pakistan. It had left it to Iran to deal with Islamabad on transit issues. This had led Iran quoting a price at least 40 per cent costlier than its calculations of the delivered price of gas through a pipeline.

While talks on purchase of gas by India from Iran had progressed rapidly, there was a lull in talks between Iran and Pakistan for the past four-five months. New Delhi hopes to achieve a breakthrough in getting a price which "is remunerative to the producer and affordable to consumer." - PTI

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