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Pipeline pressures

A problem with the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project is Uncle Sam's attitude towards Tehran, writes Meenakshi Iyer.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 15:25 IST

With the recent Iran-US nuclear standoff, an early implementation of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project now seems too far-fetched.

Also, President Ahmadinejad's 'never-say-die attitude' towards Washington has only made matters worse for its other partners -- India and Pakistan.

"The US does not want India and Pakistan to get involved with Iran on such a big project for it would blunt Washington's strategy of making Iran suffer for its nuclear ambitions," says the Daily Times.

Western powers, including US, fear that Iran secretly wants to develop the ability to make a nuclear bomb.

They are also concerned that Iran's nuclear ambitions could lead to instability in the region.

"The problem with IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) is the US approach on Iran. As the option to use force becomes less and less attractive, applying an economic and diplomatic squeeze on Iran has become imperative for the US," the paper explains.

Knowing India as a close Iran ally, the US already dangled a carrot in form of the Indo-US nuclear deal and thus ensured a vote against Tehran at the United Nation Security Council.

That apart, the then Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar -- who pursued the tri-nation project assiduously -- was replaced by Murli Deora, generally seen as a pro-US man.

The two developments give an impression that New Delhi is buckling under Washington pressure.

But officials in New Delhi say that India very much remains committed to the pipeline project.

"The pipeline project is in the interest of all the three nations. We are pursuing the matter sincerely…and New Delhi would not buckle to pressure from any side including the US, Indian Petroleum Minister Murli Deora was quoted as saying at a meet in Doha.

"…There is a dichotomy in what India is doing," the paper says.

As for Pakistan, the US has told that it is interested in meeting the country's energy requirements through the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline.

But, it is the civil nuclear cooperation deal, which the Pakistanis want from the Big Brother.

The paper says that it is because of this reason that 'Musharraf has woken up all of a sudden'.

The military ruler recently called up the Iranian leader and the two reportedly agreed to speed up the work on the project.

It is just not the IPI because of which US wants Pakistan to pursue TAP.

As the paper explains, "…Now the US controls Afghanistan and the Taliban have been ousted. If and when TAP comes on line it would be led by a US oil and gas company. So it makes sense for the US to sell TAP in order to woo Pakistan and wean it from IPI".

As for Pakistan's official stance, it has refused to abandon the project and wants it with or without India.