New Delhi: India, Asia’s third largest oil consumer, plans to resume talks with Pakistan over a pipeline to transport natural gas from Iran after more than a decade of delays, Union petroleum minister Murli Deora said.
Engineers from India will meet their counterparts in Pakistan next week when the new government takes office in Islamabad, Deora said in an interview in New Delhi on Thursday. Iran, which has the world’s second largest oil and natural gas reserves, agreed to sell gas to India in 1995.
The $7.4 billion (Rs29,670 crore) project was stalled because India couldn’t agree with Iran on the price for the gas or the fees it will pay Pakistan for transporting the fuel. The 2,100km pipeline was shelved when the nuclear-armed neighbours came to the brink of war after a terrorist attack on India’s Parliament in 2001.
Union petroleum minister Murli Deora
“We are very keen that the project goes through,” said Deora. “In the last two months we planned four trips to Pakistan to settle small issues. Let them form the government and let there be an oil minister and we are ready to come.”
Iran plans to start exporting gas to Pakistan in 2011. Iran has completed half the pipeline, which can carry 110 million cubic meters of gas a day, National Iranian Gas Co. said this month. India uses about 108 million cubic meters of gas a day, according to a BP Plc. report.
China had recently told Pakistan it is ready to join the gas pipeline project if India opts out of the venture, the ‘Dawn’ newspaper had reported on 25 March.
Iran had also told Pakistan that if India continued to show its reluctance to join the project “under US pressure”, Tehran would invite Beijing to join the venture.
Viola Gienger in Washington and PTI also contributed to this story.