Indo-Pak secy-level talks on Friday
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Indo-Pak secy-level talks on Friday

This is to be followed by another round of talks between India and Iran.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2005 18:33 IST

From being an implausible idea riddled with insurmountable issues, the multibillion-dollar Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is slowly taking concrete shape, feels Petroleum Secretary SC Tripathi.

"We have made substantial progress as the basic parameters of the project are now beginning to crystallise. From where we were some time back, when it was only just an idea, it has now taken more concrete shape," Tripathi said ahead of talks with his Pakistan counterpart on Friday.

This is to be followed by another round of bilateral talks between India and Iran later this month.

What gives Petroleum Ministry a hope on the natural gas pipeline project, which is set to bridge the gap in demand and supply considerably in both India and Pakistan is the slow convergence of views on many of the issues.

The third round of bilateral meeting with Pakistan will once again look at the project from technical, financial, commercial and legal aspects with both sides having appointed consultants to ensure a world class secure project.

"We are proposing to reach a stage where we are able to develop the project structure and also the draft framework agreement between the governments. We are approaching that point," said Tripathi.

During the meeting, the Pakistan team is expected to brief India about their bilateral talks in Iran earlier this month.

Officials involved in the talks feel it will take at least another four to six months before the three countries are able to have the dialogue on trilateral level.

"Either in this round or may be one more round, we will more or less finalise everything. Basically we want to know about Pakistan-Iran dialogue and on that basis we will have dialogue with Iran," said Tripathi.

The decision to move to trilateral level talks will depend on the progress made during the meeting with Pakistan and Iran this month.

India has already sent its proposals regarding the project structure, which was to have been finalised by the year-end, to Pakistan for consideration.

"We need to reach a consensus at the officers level regarding the project structure before all the sides go to the respective governments for approval. We are now reaching the crunch time," a senior official said.

"It may take four to six months from today. It may take longer or shorter time but by early next year we will know about the official consensus. Then the political leadership will be approached," he said.

Once the framework agreement has been reached by the three sides, petroleum ministry officials said the project will then become a commercial venture where the governments may not have to be involved.

With Russia having expressed keenness to participate in the project and likelihood of China being involved in it, most of the security issues will no longer dominate the project concerns, feel officials.

Looking to source about 60-90 million standard cubic metres of gas per day (MMSCMD), India has been advised by the financial consultants Ernst & Young to participate in the project. Pakistan too is likely to participate in the project as it looks to import 30-50 MMSCMD of gas to supplement its own production.

The deal for gas import from Iran will be negotiated for a 25-30 year period with the final quantity being dependent on factors like price, configuration of the pipeline and the reserves in South Pars allocated for this project.

First Published: Dec 15, 2005 18:33 IST