India proposes dates for IPI talks | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India proposes dates for IPI talks

delhi Updated: May 15, 2010 14:55 IST

Breaking a two-year chill in talks over its joining the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, India has invited Iran for resumption of dialogue on the long discussed project but Tehran is yet to respond.

India has proposed a meeting of India-Iran Joint Working Group between May 23-28 in New Delhi but Tehran has not yet confirmed the dates, sources in know of the development said.

India has been boycotting project talks since 2008 after its concerns of safe delivery of gas were ignored. It wants Iran to be responsible for safe passage of gas through Pakistan and would pay for the fuel only when it is delivered at the Pakistan-India border.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is scheduled to visit Iran for the G-15 summit on May 17, and is likely to discuss the project with his Iranian counterpart tomorrow.

Economic cooperation between members of G-15, a group of 17 developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America, and a review of international developments will feature in the high profile summit.

Sources said India had last month proposed dates for JWG and it was unlikely that the meeting can now happen between May 23 and 28 because of paucity of time.

The pipeline has been on the drawing board since the mid-1990s, when Iran and India inked preliminary agreements to transport gas through Pakistan. It was dubbed the "Peace Pipeline" because of hopes it would lead to a detente between neighbours India and Pakistan.

India says it fears for safety of the pipeline in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, home to a militant Islamist separatist movement, and wants Iran to take responsibility of safe passage of gas through Pakistan.

While security concerns and frequent changes in gas prices kept New Delhi away from the project, Iran and Pakistan in March signed Inter-Governmental Framework Declaration to support the gas pipeline. Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement between National Iranian Gas Export Co (NIGEC) and Pakistan Inter-State Gas Co has also been concluded.

Sources said Tehran is insisting on transferring ownership of gas to India at Iran-Pakistan border while New Delhi wants it to be Pakistan-India border thereby making Iran explicitly responsible for safe delivery of gas.

While the 1,100-km pipeline from South Pars gas fields in the Persian Gulf to Iran-Pakistan border would be laid by an Iranian firm, New Delhi wants to take stake in the 1,035-km pipeline section in Pakistan.

India feels that its participation in execution of pipeline in Pakistan would make the project more bankable, reduce the financing cost, ensure timely execution and ensure transparent and efficient management of the operations, they said, adding that Islamabad has so far not agreed to the proposal.