M A I N   N E W S

Indo-Pak officials hold talks on CBMs

New Delhi, May 2
A bus service between Poonch and Rawalakot in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is likely to be launched next month while a truck service is expected to be introduced on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route in July.

An understanding to this fresh set of confidence-building measure was reached at a meeting of officials of India and Pakistan here today, official sources said.

  • Truck service on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road from July likely
  • Bus service between Poonch and Rawalakot in PoK likely in June
  • Killings not to affect Indo-Pak relations, says India’s Security Adviser 

The two sides were finetuning modalities with regard to the two issues and exact timeframe is expected to be announced in a joint statement tomorrow at the conclusion of the two-day parleys, they said.

The Poonch-Rawalakot service will be the second cross-LoC bus link. The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route was opened in April last year, about 58 years after it was closed due to division of Jammu and Kashmir.

The bus services are aimed at enabling people of two parts of the divided state to meet their relatives and friends.

Modalities were also being worked out for setting up of meeting points at two places along the Line of Control (LoC) to enable people of either part of the divided Jammu and Kashmir to interact on designated days.

The Indian delegation is led by Mr Dilip Sinha, Joint Secretary, External Affairs Ministry, while the Pakistani side is headed by Mr Syed Ibne Abbas, Director-General, South Asia Division, Foreign Ministry.

As part of promoting trade, the two sides are aiming to work out modalities for starting a truck service on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route which is expected to primarily benefit the people of the state.

The launch of the truck service along with the start of the bus service between Poonch and Rawalakot and operationalisation of meeting points at two designated points along the LoC were agreed in principle in earlier talks and both sides are expected to finalise modalities at the two-day parleys.

Meanwhile, the government said the massacre of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir was an attempt to disrupt the process of improvement in Indo-Pak relations in which the perpetrators of the crime would fail. “No it won’t,” the National Security Adviser, Mr M.K. Narayanan, said when asked whether the massacre would affect Indo-Pak ties. — PTI


India, Iran energy deals under cloud
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 2
The Manmohan Singh government’s anti-Tehran vote on the nuclear issue seems to have cost dearly with Iran taking a tough stand on the $22 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal and Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline amidst fears that crude oil price could touch $100 per barrel by winter this year.

“There is a dispute over the LNG deal signed between India and Iran as we want the deal to be ratified by the Supreme Economic Council,” Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Hadi Nejad Hosseinian told reporters after meeting with Indian Petroleum Minister Murli Deora here today.

He said the June 2005 deal between the National Iranian Gas Export Company and the IOC, GAIL and the BPCL needed to be ratified by the Iran’s Supreme Economic Council, which had raised several issues.

He, however, did not elaborate on the issues but said, “Since it has not been ratified, as far as we are concerned the contract is not implemental”.

“The price of LNG is the main issue,” Mr Deora admitted, adding that both countries were trying to sort out the matter.

On the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, the Iranian Minister said, “Considering commercial implications, we want India should take a firm stand on the project by August, as Pakistan has expressed willingness to go for the gas pipeline, excluding India”.

It appears that after India’s voting against Iran in Vienna on the nuclear issue, Iran has taken tough stand on the LNG pricing demanding review of prices considering spurt in global crude prices from around $40 per barrel to $74 per barrel over past one year.

Considering the dilly-dally approach of the Indian Government over the gas pipeline, the Iranian leadership has given a deadline to New Delhi to sign the agreement at revised price or it would have a deal with Islamabad.

However, allaying aside media reports, Mr Hosseinian said, “We want very much India to be a partner in the project that would meet energy needs of people in both countries. We will continue to engage in discussions leading to tri-nation ministerial meeting next month”.

He said against the capacity of 110 million standard cubic meters per day, Pakistan has sought between 30 to 60 mmscmd of gas and India wants 90 mmscmd. Besides, 30-35 mmscmd of gas would be transported through the proposed pipeline from gigantic South Pars gas field to eastern regions of Iran.

On the possible economic sanctions, he said, “We do not think if sanctions could include oil and gas supply as it would lead to spurt in international prices,” adding that by winter the global prices could touch $100 per barrel.

“The demand figures mentioned ramp up over a period of five years. Initially, a single pipeline (meeting requirements of eastern Iran, Pakistan and India on pro-rata basis) would suffice and a parallel line can be laid as demand rises,” he said.

Denying any US pressure on the deal, Mr Deora said India was hopeful to work out a deal with the Iranian Government. He admitted that in the annexure of the contract it was mentioned that the deal needed ratification by the National Iranian Oil Company, but hoped that it would be ratified.

The Iranian Minister made it clear that the deal, which was being negotiated by the three countries currently, would also need the Supreme Council’s endorsement and even after the three countries signed an inter-government agreement in June, the council could in effect nullify it.

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