India, Pakistan to discuss IPI, TAPI pipeline next week

April 14th, 2008 - 8:57 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
(Lead)

New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) The oil ministers of India and Pakistan will meet in Islamabad next week to resolve differences over the trans-national Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline and also hold talks on the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline. Inaugurating the fifth Asia Gas Partnership Summit Monday, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora said he will travel to Pakistan next week to discuss both the pipelines.

The multilateral meetings for TAPI will be held April 23-24, following which the two ministers will hold bilateral discussions on the remaining differences on transit levies for the IPI pipeline project.

“We have two-three small differences on transit fees. But I am very optimistic that we can sort out the problems,” Deora told reporters after the inaugural session of the summit.

“I had been getting invitations from the (Pakistani) minister on when I would go to Islamabad, but I could not go there while elections were there or after the tragic events (former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination),” he added.

Before the minister’s visit, a technical team will leave Tuesday to hold talks April 16-18.

According to officials, India wants the transit fees to be pegged at five percent of the price of delivered gas, while Pakistan has been arguing for double that figure.

Similarly, the transportation tariff demanded by Pakistan is $1.57 per million British thermal unit of gas supply, while India is looking for a much lower figure of about $0.69 to $0.70.

Originally, Iran was supposed to supply 150 million cubic metres (mcm) of gas per day through the pipeline, with India getting 90 mcm and Pakistan the rest. Now, Iran has revised the supply in the first phase to 60 mcm, which would be shared equally between the two South Asian neighbours.

Deora said he would also discuss the proposed TAPI pipeline in Islamabad. The TAPI pipeline is still at a rather preliminary stage but it has the powerful backing of the US that has been a vocal critic of the $5.4 billion IPI pipeline, as it involves Iran.

It had several false starts last year, with the last meeting in Islamabad postponed by the bout of violence and political instability in that country.

India currently meets only 55-60 percent of its demand for natural gas. But, according to U.B. Choubey, chairman and managing director, Gas Authority of India Limited, new sources of gas from eastern offshore basins should help improve the supply-demand balance.

Government officials also said they expected India to be self-sufficient in gas by the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan in 2012.

In his written speech at the summit, Deora stressed that Asia, which now accounts for 70 percent of global liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade, required cross-border trade in gas. “Geography, resources and economics favour regional integration, especially in gas,” he said.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Petroleum Secretary M.S. Srinivasan said the key issue in utilisation of gas is pricing. If the gas sector is to grow globally and locally, it is imperative to make it worthwhile for the producers and the users of gas as substitute fuel,” he said.

The GAIL chief suggested the formation of a Gas Cooperation Forum of Asian countries, with focus on collaboration in trade, investment, technology transfer and research and development.

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