AFP: Iran and Pakistan started a new round of talks over finalising a long-delayed multi-billion dollar gas pipeline project with India, but in the absence of Indian officials. TEHRAN (AFP) Iran and Pakistan started a new round of talks over finalising a long-delayed multi-billion dollar gas pipeline project with India, but in the absence of Indian officials.
Officials said India’s absence was linked to its lack of agreement on pricing terms with Pakistan for the so-called “Peace Pipeline”, which aims to usher in a new era of cooperation between the three countries.
“Iranian and Pakistani experts are going to finalise the terms of the agreement which will then be signed by the presidents of the two countries,” the state news agency IRNA reported.
“The Indian side is not taking part in these discussions as India and Pakistan have still not come to an agreement on the price for the transit of gas through Pakistan,” the agency quoted an Iranian official as saying.
Discussions on the 7.4-billion-dollar project started in 1994, but have been held up by technical and commercial issues, as well as US displeasure over major economic deals with Iran at a time of tensions over its nuclear drive.
The negotiations are going ahead at “expert” level over the next days and on Thursday the deputy oil ministers of the two countries are to meet in Tehran to examine the results of the discussions, IRNA said.
Caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari had warned last week Iran was prepared to sign with Pakistan alone if India did not speed up.
“If we believe that a serious delay has occurred with the Indians, we will go ahead with the Pakistanis,” he said.
There have been strong objections to the pipeline from the United States — a key friend of Pakistan and an ever closer ally of India — which is at loggerheads with Iran over its contested nuclear programme.
The 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) pipeline from Iran’s giant South Pars gas field will initially carry around 60 million standard cubic metres per day of gas.
India, which imports more than 70 percent of its energy needs, has been racing to secure new supplies of oil and gas from abroad besides ramping up production from domestic sources to sustain its scorching economic growth.
Pakistan will itself receive gas as well as transporting India’s share. India will pay Pakistan for the cost of shipping its share of the gas to the Indian border.
Iran has the world’s second largest gas reserves after Russia but until now has remained a relatively minor player in the global export market.