India, Iran to resume talks on gas pipeline through Pak | world | Hindustan Times
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India, Iran to resume talks on gas pipeline through Pak

world Updated: May 16, 2010 12:52 IST

After a two-year lull, India has proposed to resume talks with Iran next week on importing gas through a pipeline passing through Pakistan, but Tehran is yet to respond to the offer.

India last month proposed a meeting of the India-Iran Joint Working Group (JWG) between May 23 and 28 in New Delhi to discuss the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, but Tehran has not yet confirmed the data, sources said.

India has been boycotting project talks since 2008 over concerns on safe delivery of gas and frequent changes in price of gas. New Delhi wants Iran to stick to the price agreed between them in 2007 and also wants it to be responsible for safe passage of gas through Pakistan.

India's External Affairs Minister, SM Krishna, who is Tehran to attend the G-15 Summit, is likely to discuss resumption of dialogue on the IPI project when he meets his counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki.

Sources said the delay in Iran's response essentially means that talks cannot happen between May 23 and 28 and new dates will now have to be discussed.

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 for safe passage of gas through Pakistan. It wants pay for the fuel only when it is delivered to it at the Pakistan-India border.

Sources said Krishna will again flag India's concern on safety and pricing during the meeting to Mottaki. Unless the twin issues are addressed, it may not join the project even though Iran and Pakistan in March signed an Inter-Governmental Framework Declaration to support the gas pipeline. A Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement between National Iranian Gas Export Co (NIGEC) and Pakistan Inter-State Gas Co has also been concluded.