India committed to IPI, says Iran ties important (Lead, Changing dateline)November 2nd, 2008 - 12:34 am ICT by IANS
Tehran, Nov 1 (IANS) Backing Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, India Saturday reaffirmed its commitment to the tri-nation pipeline and underlined that it was trying to resolve security and transit issues with Pakistan over the $7.4-billion project.External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who began his official visit here with a meeting of the India-Iran Joint Commission, also reminded Tehran about honouring its commitment to implement the liquified natural gas deal of 2005 for the supply of five million tones of LNG annually to India.
He also expressed hope that Iran would give 20 percent stake for ONGC Videsh Ltd in the Yadavaran gas field which was part of part of the LNG agreement.
“We have reiterated to the Iranian government at all levels that India remains committed to the IPI project. We are working with Pakistan to resolve outstanding issues pertaining to transit and transportation tariff,” the minister said.
“With the cooperation of all three sides, it should be possible to finalise the project,” he added.
Mukherjee made it clear that India has a broad relationship with Iran and no single issue like the pipeline project will hamper it.
However, the tri-nation pipeline project “is an important part of our much wider relationship on energy related issues,” he told the IRNA news agency while responding to a question whether the prospect of the pipeline will force both the countries to evaluate their relations.
Iran, however, made a renewed pitch for accelerating negotiations on the stalled pipeline project that involves bringing Iranian gas to India via Pakistan.
“Considering that we have lost many opportunities in the ‘peace pipeline’ project due to India’s procrastination, we have told that country to engage more actively,” Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said, according to Mehr News Agency.
“The security of this project in each country will be with that country and negotiations so far have created conditions that have assured us this security will prevail,” Nozari said.
The two-day Joint Commission meeting, co-chaired by Mukherjee and Iran’s Economic Minister Shamseddin Hossein, is aimed at expanding cooperation in a wide range of areas, including trade and investment, energy, mining, railways and banking.
Allaying Iran’s concerns about India’s growing ties with the US in the aftermath of the nuclear deal, Mukherjee sought to de-link New Delhi’s ties with Tehran with its relations with any other country.
“India-Iran relations are important in themselves because of our historic, civilizational as well as contemporary ties,” he told IRNA.
“Regular exchange of high level visits has always been characteristic of our relations. This is in fact my third visit in about 20 months that underscores the importance India gives to its relations with Iran,” he stressed.
Supporting Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, the minister, however, reiterated that Tehran’s pursuit of civilian nuclear energy must be “consistent with its international obligations and commitments” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Rejecting confrontation over the issue, he emphasised that all issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme must be resolved through dialogue and understanding and envisaged a “central role” for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in this process.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had reiterated India’s position at the India-EU summit in Marseille Sep 29 that while India backs Iran’s right to civilian nuclear energy, it does not support its ambitions of acquiring nuclear weapons. These remarks did not go down well with Tehran, which criticised the India-US nuclear deal saying it violated the NPT.