Seeking to coerce India to join long-talked gas pipeline, Pakistan on Thursday said it will guarantee safety of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline and may give New Delhi an equity stake in the section passing through its territory as additional surety of safe delivery of the fuel.
With New Delhi boycotting formal talks for almost three- years, Iran and Pakistan this month signed last of a series of agreements for implementing the project on bilateral basis. Islamabad insists the agreements have "in-built" mechanism to accommodate India should it decide to join the project.
"We (the State of Pakistan) will stand guarantee for safe delivery of gas (at Pakistan-India border)," Mohammed Chaudhry Ejaz, Additional Secretary in Pakistan´s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, told PTI in an interview here.
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.
"We have up to nine hours of power outages and we need Iranian gas to bridge this rising deficit. It is in our interest that the pipeline is safe and we get the gas to generate power and fuel industries," he said.
India was widely believed to have decided not to pursue the project after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai with apprehensions being expressed about terrorists holding the pipeline hostage to their demands and even cutting supplies by blowing the pipeline to hurt the interest of world's second fastest growing economy.
New Delhi, however, has not officially called it quits yet and is proposing talks with Iran to sort out impediments. It wants to take custody of gas, that triggers payments for the fuel, only at Pakistan-India border to make Iran explicitly responsible for safe passage of gas through Pakistan.
Also, it wants gas utility GAIL (India) to take a stake in the 1,035-km pipeline section in Pakistan to make the project bankable, reduce the financing cost, ensure timely execution and ensure transparent and efficient management of the operations.
"Yes, we will more than welcome India to join the project length in Pakistan," Ejaz said when asked if Islamabad was open to India taking stake.
He said Pakistan in July 2009 signed a Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement and this month signed among other pacts a Gas Transportation Agreement, which has been notorised in Paris, provides for internationally acceptable transit arrangement for gas to be supplied to India.