India wants not just China, but others to join Iran pipeline

May 28th, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) India is open to China joining the tri-nation pipeline that seeks to bring Iranian gas to its territory via Pakistan, and is keen that other countries also pick up stakes in the project. “We have no issues with China joining the pipeline. There is, however, no concrete proposal from China right now,” a senior official who did not wish to be named told IANS here.

He was alluding to recent reports quoting top Chinese functionaries expressing Beijing’s willingness to join the $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, which is being negotiated between the three countries.

“It’s not just China. We would be happy if other countries also join the project. It will ensure its security and make it more economically viable,” the official said.

“The more, the merrier,” he said in a lighter vein while elucidating New Delhi’s vision of a trans-Asian gas pipeline that will cater to major energy-consuming nations of Asia.

“If you look at Asia, some of the world’s major gas producers and consumers are in the continent. It makes perfect sense to have a tran-Asian gas pipeline,” he said.

The official, however, admitted that India continues to have serious anxieties about security of the pipeline that will go through the volatile region of Balochistan in Pakistan that is often dogged by violence and tribal feuds.

He also made it clear that India was committed to making the tri-nation pipeline a reality.

The pipeline issue figured prominently in discussions between foreign secretaries and foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in Islamabad last week.

At the end of his talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made a strong pitch for the pipeline project, saying it would “not only be a good confidence-building measure but will also bring prosperity to the entire region”.

In his talks with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon had conveyed India’s concerns on security issues related to the pipeline and sought assurances on uninterrupted fuel supply through the Pakistani territory.

Days after the talks between India and Pakistan, He Yafei, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, was quoted saying that Beijing “would be interested, but it would depend on a lot of things”, indicating it’s just an idea whose feasibility has not been studied in detail.

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

Ahmadinejad has welcomed China’s interest in joining the gas pipeline project. Pakistan, which has close defence and economic ties with China, is also enthusiastic about Beijing joining the proposed pipeline.

Oil ministers of India, Pakistan and Iran are expected to submit a final report on the pipeline project by June before the three countries can consider signing a tri-partite agreement.

Last month, Indian Petroleum Minister Murli Deora reiterated New Delhi’s commitment to the pipeline, but said there were still differences over the transit fees to be charged by Pakistan.

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