A day after sealing final pacts with Iran on a long-talked gas pipeline, Pakistan on Wednesday said it will welcome India joining the project and will guarantee safe delivery of the fuel.
With New Delhi boycotting talks on Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline over pricing and security concerns, Iran and Pakistan on Tuesday signed government guarantees - the last of a series of agreements - that commits the Islamic republic to supply its eastern neighbour with natural gas from 2014.
"We have kept open the option of India joining the project (at a later date). We will welcome India (in the project)," Muhammad Ejaz Chaudhry, Additional Secretary in Pakistan's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, told PTI from Islamabad.
India fears terrorists may hold the pipeline hostage to their demands and even cut supplies by blowing it to hurt the interest of world's second fastest growing economy. Also, it is upset with frequent changes in pricing of gas by Iran and has boycotted talks for almost three years now.
New Delhi has now proposed talks with Iran to sort out impediments but the two are yet to agree on mutually acceptable dates.
"We yesterday signed government guarantees, letters of comfort and condition precedents for the project," Chaudhry said.
Pakistan had in July last year signed a gas sale and purchase agreement and in March signed among other pacts a gas transportation agreement (GTA). The GTA, which has been notarised in Paris, provides for internationally acceptable transit arrangement for gas to be supplied to India.
"We will stand guarantee for safe delivery of gas (at Pakistan-India border)," Chaudhry said.
Of the 1,035-km length of the pipeline in Pakistan, only 100-odd km would be exclusively for carrying gas to India while the rest would be transporting fuel for both Pakistan and India, he said, pointing that it was in Pakistan's own interest to protect the pipeline.
Iran will supply 21.5 million cubic meters a day of gas to Pakistan for 25 years. The deal can be extended by five years and the volume may be increased to 30 million cubic meters on Pakistan's request.
The Persian Gulf nation has so far constructed 907-km of the pipeline from the industrial hub Assaluyeh in southern Iran. It will now start the second leg of the pipeline toward Pakistan, about 300-km in length, that will carry natural gas from Iran's South Pars field.
South Pars, which extends from Qatar's North Field, forms the largest known gas deposit in the world.