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India, Pak to speed up gas pipeline
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Islamabad, June 6
India and Pakistan today decided to set up a joint working group (JWG) to study the legal, technical, commercial and financial parameters of the Iran-India gas pipeline aimed at getting the project off the ground by December 31 this year.

Both countries have also agreed to move forward on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) pipeline to make it a TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline, besides exploring energy cooperation in the Qatar-Pakistan gas pipeline.

The understanding was reached at a meeting when Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar called on Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz where presentation on the projections of the Pakistan gas economy was made.

Mr Aiyar is expected to meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraff tomorrow. He is also meeting Pakistan’s Commerce Minister and Foreign Minister tonight.

Headed by Mr Ahmad Waqar and Mr S.C. Tripathi, the Petroleum Secretaries of Pakistan and India, respectively, the JWG would soon begin its meeting on the pattern of India-Iran JWG to push the project as well as work on other emerging issues related with the project.

After his meeting with the Pakistan PM, Mr Aiyar told reporters: “I am very encouraged by the common desire to carry forward our discussion on the gas pipeline through Pakistan to India. Mr Shaukat Aziz saw the pipeline as one of the linkages on which we could have cooperative India-Pakistan relations.”

Describing the meeting as a “historical beginning”, Mr Aiyar noted that “specific time lines have been laid down to move the project. There is every reason to smile for all of us with confidence. I have been dreaming of the project for the past many years and am now hopeful that it will soon become a reality,” he added.

The minister said both the countries had agreed that with the projected growth in energy demand, India and Pakistan would require 500 million standard cubic metre per day (MSCMPD) , including 300 MSCMPD by Pakistan by 2025. “It implies that over the next five years both of us will not only require gas through the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, but also from other available resources, including gas from Turkmenistan, Qatar and stretching to Russia, Saudi Arabia and UAE besides LNG from other countries.”

Reiterating India’s stand regarding the US concerns over the Iran pipeline, Mr Aiyar said, “There is no official US pressure on India. In her recent visit in India, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mentioned certain US concerns. We are sure that we will take care of the and they would take care of our energy needs.”

Pakistan’s Petroleum Minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon will visit India by August-end and Mr Aiyar will visit Pakistan by November for further discussions about the project. “I hope that in the next six months Pakistan will intensify discussions with Iran.”

Asked about the US concerns, he said if the India and Pakistan agreed to cooperate, no one could stop them from moving forward in energy cooperation that was so essential to improve the lot of their population.

On the Turkmenistan gas pipeline, Mr Aiyar said, “I have urged Mr Jadoon to intervene to extend an invitation to me to make India a party in the project. Since our demand for energy is so high, we will make every effort to tap gas and LNG from all available sources in the region.”

Regarding the financing of the Iran-India gas pipeline, Mr Aiyar said, “With burgeoning foreign reserves of India and Pakistan, I am certain that investors will come forward to invest in a project with assured returns. We will follow the best financial practices to execute the project.”

Appreciating the Pakistani Government, the Minister said, “I appreciate that they have agreed to consider the Iran-India pipeline as a stand alone project under the widening economic and commercial cooperation without any links to the ongoing peace talks on the Kashmir dispute.”

Mr Aiyar will call on Pakistan Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar tomorrow to “propose the export of Indian diesel at a competitive price from the India oil refinery in Pakistan via the Jalandhar depot.”


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