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India to participate in pipeline project

A technical team from India will reach Pak on May 21 to take part in the talks.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 11:46 IST

India has confirmed participation in technical-level talks on the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project scheduled for May 22-24, official sources said.

However, Pakistan and Iran are yet to receive a clear "yes or no" from India on finalising the strategy for the project, an official said.

A technical team from India is to reach Islamabad via Lahore May 21 to take part in the talks on the multi-billion dollar project.

He added that India's participation in the technical group meeting is of extraordinary importance for Islamabad and Tehran, as it will clearly indicate New Delhi's interest in joining the tripartite gas pipeline project.

India's initial response to being part of the project was positive. But the recent US-Iran standoff on the latter's nuclear programme altered the situation, officials here say.

The US administration is strongly opposing the project and wants India and Pakistan to look at other options like the Pakistan-Qatar gas pipeline for the import of gas to meet their growing demand.

India's technical team was one of the groups constituted after detailed discussions at the steering committee level earlier.

The group is to research the finer technical aspects of the project and submit its recommendations to the steering committee.

Technical issues include the route for the pipeline, commercial value of the project, gas pricing formula and a backup system to ensure smooth supply to the buyers in case of any likely disruption.

Sources said the technical group would also discuss a timeframe to complete the project.

India's participation in the upcoming talks will also dispel the impression that New Delhi is no longer interested in the project in the wake of US pressure and at the same time encourage Pakistan and Iran to start off the $7 billion project on a priority basis.

Iran and Pakistan held ministerial level two-day talks last month and resolved to go ahead with the project.

The energy ministers of the two countries had vowed to strictly follow the schedule to make the pipeline a reality. The two sides also set a deadline of June 30 for New Delhi's participation, officials here said.