New Delhi: India has put off talks with Pakistan till elections there to resolve the transit fee issue that poses hurdles to the implementation of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.
Murli Deora, Petroleum Minister, on an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart Ahsan Ullah Khan, was to lead a high- level delegation for talks in Islamabad on 7 - 8 February but was asked to abort the trip till a new government was installed in Pakistan after the 18 February elections, sources said.
Pakistan’s demand for a transit fee for allowing passage of Iranian gas to India on top of transportation charges for wheeling the fuel through a 1,035-km pipeline segment in that country had put a pause on negotiations on the IPI pipeline, with New Delhi boycotting trilateral meetings on the issue since July 2007.
M S Srinivasan, petroleum secretary , R S Sharma, ONGC chairman, U D Choubey,GAIL chairman, and Sarthak Behuria , IOC chairman, were to accompany Deora on the visit to Islamabad that was supposed to lay grounds for the trilateral meeting called by Iran on 12 - 13 February in Tehran to seal the pipeline deal.
Sources said since the Pakistan visit was off, the Tehran meet would also not take place. Deora may visit Islamabad in early March to resolve the transit fee issue and later mount a delegation to Tehran for finalisation of IPI pipeline.
During the past seven months, Pakistan has concluded with Iran negotiations on all technical and commercial aspects of gas sales but could not sign a bilateral gas import deal as Tehran insists on joining of the politically stable India, which has high demand, for the project to take off.
Sources said Deora’s visit to Islamabad would also seek to evolve a common response from India and Pakistan to Iran’s recent request for change in the price revision clause.
New Delhi and Islamabad have reached broad understanding on the transportation tariff payable to Pakistan for wheeling the gas through the 1,035-km pipeline length passing in that country. But they have not yet agreed on payment of a separate transit fee to Pakistan for allowing passage of the fuel.
Pakistan is seeking $0.493 per mBtu as transit fee, while New Delhi has offered $0.15 per mBtu (60 million dollars a year) for providing security and right of way to the pipeline.
Iran plans to begin export of gas by the end of 2013. The pipeline, which will span 2,300-km, will initially carry 60 million standard cubic meters of gas a day, split between India and Pakistan equally. In the Pakistan territory, out of 1,035-km, 800-km pipeline will be carrying the gas for both Pakistan and India.