India expects to finalise a deal “by next month” on a pipeline that will transport gas across the subcontinent from Iran, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said on Thursday.
He said the $7.5-billion project to bring gas from Iranian fields to India and Pakistan was discussed on the sidelines of the World Petroleum Congress industry event in Madrid. “We discussed this here again yesterday (Wednesday). There should be an end to dialogue now,” Deora said.
“The only issue is where to take the delivery, the delivery point,” he said, adding the two options were on the India-Pakistan border or Pakistan-Iran border. “But these things are being sorted out at a very high level now, and I hope by next month things will be okay.” Asked when the deal could be signed, he said: “I hope by next month.”
Talks on the 2,600-km Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline began in 1994 but were stalled by tensions between India and Pakistan and disagreements over prices and transit fees. India and Pakistan reported last month they had resolved commercial differences holding up the deal.
India has been under pressure from the United States not to do business with Iran, viewed in Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism and seen as bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. But India, which imports more than 70 per cent of its energy needs, has been trawling for new supplies of oil and gas while ramping up domestic production to sustain its booming economy.
Earlier this year, it told Washington not to interfere in its dealings with Iran after a State Department spokesman said Washington would like India to put pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme.
India in 2005 signed another deal with Iran for the supply of five million tonnes of gas annually for 25 years.
Deora on Thursday also rejected criticism that rising energy demands in India and China were helping push up oil prices. “I don’t think that (issue) should have found place here (at the WPC),” he said.