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Hiccups over, Iran pipeline project progressing: India

The MEA confirms the progress of the multi- billion dollar gas transfer project to meet the demands of burgeoning economy.

delhi Updated: Apr 16, 2007 13:53 IST

Indian government on Monday said that despite earlier "hiccups" the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, the multi-billion dollar gas transfer project is progressing and stressed the need for trans-national pipelines to boost the country's energy security.

"There have been hiccups in the initial stages about the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. But the project is moving ahead," Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said at a seminar held in the Capital.

The day-long seminar on 'India's expanding markets in gas' is organised by the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank specialising in security and policy issues.

Sharma also hinted that the contours of the tri-nation pipeline may be redefined with some suggestions doing the rounds about India buying Iranian gas at the India-Pakistan border.

"We have to look at trans-national pipelines for energy security," Sharma said while mentioning the three gas projects under consideration by India. Besides the IPI pipeline, these include the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India and the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India pipeline.

"We can't be certain which project will be executed first. But they are all under consideration," Sharma said while stressing that trans-national pipelines are crucial for India's energy security to feed its fast growing economy.

In a recent meeting on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz reiterated their commitment to "sincerely and seriously pursuing the project for its successful completion."

The $7 billion tri-nation pipeline project is opposed by the US as it fears the funds from the pipeline may be used by Tehran to fund its allegedly clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

Sharma had to come to the seminar at the last moment as External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was expected to deliver the keynote address, couldn't make it as he was still recovering from a recent road accident.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, who was invited to deliver the inaugural address, also couldn't make it to the international seminar in which six participants from the US and the UK are also participating.

Natural gas currently only accounts for nine per cent of India's primary energy mix against a global average of around 25 per cent. Experts attending the seminar will debate the prospects of India making a smooth transition to a gas-led energy economy and explore means by which the country's acute gas shortage can be overcome.

First Published: Apr 16, 2007 13:42 IST