Iran pipeline: India seeks Pakistani assurances

May 20th, 2008 - 9:26 pm ICT by admin  

By Manish Chand
Islamabad, May 20 (IANS) Underlining the importance of the proposed Iran pipeline for energy security, India Tuesday asked Pakistan to assure uninterrupted fuel supply from the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline and ensure the security of the $7 billion project that will go through the volatile regions of Balochistan. “We are seriously in need of natural gas. We discussed security issues related to the pipeline,” India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters here after the fourth round of composite dialogue with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir here.

“We sought assurances on uninterrupted fuel supply and how it might be achieved,” Menon replied when asked about the fate of the pipeline that seeks to bring the Iranian gas through Pakistani territory to India.

“The conversation on this will continue,” Menon said, indicating that there are still issues relating to transit and transportation fee which remained to be resolved with Pakistan.

The stalled pipeline project, hailed as a peace pipeline that will bring three important countries of the region in a energy partnership, got a boost last month during the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjead to India and Pakistan.

During his brief stopover visit to New Delhi, the Iranian president had announced that oil ministers of the three countries will finalize an agreement on all issues relating to the pipeline within three months.

But India still has anxieties about the security issues not only relating to Pakistan but the political uncertainty in Iran and Tehran’s ongoing standoff with the West over its nuclear programme that may imperil the project.

The pipeline is being opposed by the US as it feels that revenues from the pipeline may be used by Iran to fund its suspect nuclear weapon programme and will defeat its efforts to isolate Tehran over the nuclear issue.

India’s Petroleum Minister Murli Deora held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khwaza Asif last month.

Reiterating India’s commitment to the pipeline, Deora had admitted there were still differences over the transit fees to be charged by Pakistan for Iranian gas to be transported through its territory to India.

Pakistan and Iran are expected to hold another round of talks over the gas pipeline deal in Tehran on May 26.

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