New Delhi: India is skipping a crucial official level talks on the $7.4-billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline beginning in Tehran this week, saying it will not attend tri-nation meetings unless transit fee issue is resolved with Islamabad.
Iran had called a meeting of technical experts and lawyers from the three nations between 24-26 September to exchange views on the gas-supply contract that India and Pakistan, as consumers, would have to sign with fuel supplier Iran. Officials of the three countries were to then discuss the issue on September 27.
“There are crucial bilateral issues that need to be resolved first before we begin discussions on contractual issues on a trilateral platform,” a top Petroleum Ministry official said.
New Delhi and Islamabad have reached broad understanding on the transportation tariff payable to Pakistan for wheeling natural gas through the 1,035-km pipeline segment in that country, but the two nations have not yet arrived at any agreement on the issue.
“We have communicated to Iran’s Petroleum Ministry’s Special Representative H Ghanimi Fard and Pakistan’s Petroleum Secretary Farrakh Qayyum that we will not be attending the trilateral meeting unless bilateral issues are resolved with Pakistan,” the official said.
Incidentally, a bilateral meeting of officials from India and Pakistan was scheduled in Islamabad last month but New Delhi cancelled appearance at the last minute citing “pressing urgencies at home.” The bilateral talks were to be immediately followed by trilateral discussions, which were attended by Iran and Pakistan but not India.