Tehran: India can still join a natural gas deal between Iran and Pakistan, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Monday, a day after officials said Tehran and Islamabad signed an agreement on the exports of Iranian gas.
India had been part of the $7 billion so-called “peace pipeline” project, but stayed away from talks in September saying it wanted to agree transit costs through Pakistan on a bilateral basis first.
On Sunday, Iranian media said Iran and Pakistan signed their agreement during a visit by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to Tehran, without giving details on its content or making clear whether there were still issues outstanding.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said it was a “final agreement” between the two sides.
“The contract is signed. The details will be given to you by the relevant officials,” he told a news conference.
Asked about India’s position, he said: “The way is not closed for the entry of the third party ... India can also join this any moment it wishes to ... there are no obstacles in the way.”
Iran and Pakistan had agreed on a revised price formula and a new price review mechanism in December which updated terms reached in 2006 during long-running negotiations on the project.
Iranian media had reported the two sides started a fresh round of talks in Tehran on Friday, quoting one Iranian official as saying a date would be set to finalise the deal during the two-day talks.
Iran has the world’s second-largest gas reserves after Russia. But sanctions, politics and construction delays have slowed its gas development, and analysts say Iran is unlikely to become a major exporter for a decade.
An Iranian oil ministry official had previously said he hoped that the commencement of gas delivery would start five years after the contract was signed, adding both Iran and Pakistan would welcome India if it decided to join the project.
Under the original plans, the pipeline would initially carry 60 million cubic metres of gas daily to Pakistan and India, half for each country. The pipeline’s capacity would later rise to 150 million cu metres.