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India keen to join central Asian pipeline

India is seriously considering joining a Central Asian gas pipeline that originates from Turkmenistan by the end of this month.

india Updated: May 12, 2006 02:44 IST

India is seriously considering joining a Central Asian gas pipeline that originates from Turkmenistan by the end of this month, but the decision to join the new project will not detract from its commitment to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.

"We are serious about joining the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline project. Hopefully, it should happen this month," official sources said.

"But this does not mean that we have given up on the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline. On the contrary, all three countries have stepped up efforts to make it real," the sources added.

The government Thursday admitted that it was keen to join the $3.3 billion TAP project as it "offered the possibility of an alternative source of gas supply to India".

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran wrote a letter to MS Srinivasan, secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas April 24 in which he sent the external affairs ministry's comments on the TAP project contained in an annexure.

"These are comments on a draft cabinet note prepared by the ministry of petroleum and natural gas concerning a proposal for India to participate in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan natural gas pipeline project," external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna clarified on Thursday.

The annexure lists out issues that need to be considered before a final decision on joining the project is taken, Sarna said, while underlining the point that the annexure should be seen as not containing recommendations, but different options the government has to meet India's burgeoning energy needs.

"In view of the continuing tension over Iran on the nuclear issue, the IPI project may not be easy to implement even if the economies are mutually acceptable," the annexure says.

Sarna clarified that these comments, which form part of the annexure, were erroneously attributed to Saran by a daily.

The petroleum ministry plans to approach the Cabinet to get its nod for a formal request by the end of the month on becoming an official member of the project. In mid-February, the steering committee had given India three months to submit a formal request.

India was accepted as an observer at the TAP committee last year.

However, an array of crucial issues, including the availability of adequate gas reserves in Turkmenistan, third party certification of reserves, project structure/security and gas pricing, remain to be resolved before India takes a final decision on joining the project.