New Delhi: Lending a new twist to negotiations on the tri-nation gas pipeline, Islamabad has offered to sell Iranian gas to India at its border to save New Delhi the bother over risks associated with safe transit of the fuel through Pakistani territory.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at a late night meeting with Petroleum Minister Murli Deora here on 3 April offered to buy 60 million standard cubic meters per day of gas from Iran, use half of it in his country and sell the rest to India at the Indo-Pak border, highly placed sources said.
This way India will neither have to deal with Iran, which faces UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, nor be bothered about cumbersome security of the 1,035-km pipeline stretch in Pakistan and safe delivery of gas at its border.
On the flip side, Pakistan may add some margin to the already high Iranian gas price.
Sources said when Deora objected to the high charges Islamabad was expecting for allowing transit of Iranian gas, the Pakistani leader offered that Islamabad would take care of negotiating a gas price with Tehran and cost of transporting the gas from Iran-Pak border to Pak-India border.
Iran wants to sell natural gas to India and Pakistan at 4.93 dollars per million British thermal unit (at $60 per barrel crude oil price). On top of this, Pakistan wants a transit fee of $0.49 per mBtu (10% of the gas price) and a transportation tariff of $1.57 per mBtu, making the delivered price of gas at India-Pak border $7 per mBtu.
Meanwhile, the US has reiterated its opposition to the $7 billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project, but was ready to help Islamabad overcome its energy crisis through “financial and technical support”.
Responding to queries on the project, Gordon W. Weynand, a US energy expert and a senior official in the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said Washington was against associating the Iranian regime with the IPI gas project and was ready to help Islamabad meet its energy needs.
“Next three years are going to be very difficult and challenging for Pakistan to resolve its energy crisis for which we are ready to offer our financial and technical support,” said Weynand, who is on a two-week visit to Islamabad.
The Bush administration, which has declined to sign a civil nuclear pact with Pakistan on the line of the India-US civil nuclear deal, has offered Pakistan financial and technical assistance to overcome its energy shortage.
Weynand said the US had decided to help Pakistan import electricity from Central Asia, especially Tajikistan. The US energy expert said that the World Bank planned to provide financial assistance while the Asian Development Bank (ADB) would be extending technical support to help Pakistan import 1,000 megawatts of electricity from Tajikistan.
“Our mission is to put together economic growth strategy for Pakistan for the next five years and to see how energy fits into the Pakistani economy,” Weynand was quoted today by the Dawn daily as saying.
In regard to the security concerns about the Afghan transit route for the energy project, he said: “These are some difficult issues but then we will make sure that every thing goes normal in Afghanistan and Pakistan gets this electricity from Tajikistan and also from Kyrgyzstan.”