India-Iran energy link years away: US

A senior US official said India's energy link existed only in hypothetical realm as there's no plan ready for decision.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2005 12:21 IST

Any plans by the Indian government to sign energy deals with Iran are "years away" and exist only in the hypothetical realm, a senior US State Department official said on Wednesday.

Nicholas Burns, the No. 3 State Department official, did not specifically mention ongoing talks between India and Iran to build a $7 billion natural gas pipeline through Pakistan.

"The Indians have assured us that there is no plan on the table that is ready for decision by the Iranian (and) Indian governments, that any plans, any discussions, have been hypothetical and are years away," said Burns, speaking at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. "We would hope that those relationships would not be consummated."

Energy-hungry India in recent months had indicated intentions to finalise a deal by the end of the year.

But speaking in Riyadh earlier this month,Petroleum Minister Aiyer said delays in Iran toward naming a new oil minister had also delayed plans to finalise the pipeline.

Iran is OPEC's second-largest crude oil producer and has the world's second-biggest reserves of natural gas.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear arms, funding anti-Israeli militia and stirring militant attacks against US forces in Iraq.

Analysts say the pipeline deal has also been jeopardized by India's decision to join the United States in September and vote to refer Iran's nuclear programme to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

India has to tread a tightrope in pipeline talks, trying to satisfy it ravenous appetite for hydrocarbons while not upsetting Washington.

India faces a natural gas deficit of 200 million cubic meters a day in 20 years.

First Published: Dec 01, 2005 11:51 IST