PM confident of Iran-India gas pipeline
Deora and Pak oil minister, Amanullah Khan Jadoon, are scheduled to discuss the project during official talks in New Delhi on Friday.india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 15:48 IST
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is confident a $7 billion pipeline to carry Iranian gas to India across Pakistan will be built, Oil Minister Murli Deora said on Friday.
The project to deliver gas to energy-deficient South Asia has been discussed for more than a decade but progress has been slow because of hostility between India and Pakistan, as well as concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.
"The PM said the pipeline is very important for the economic progress of India, Iran and Pakistan and he is confident that the pipeline will come through," Deora told reporters after meeting the prime minister along with his Pakistani counterpart.
Former oil minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, had vigorously pursued the project despite US objections, and some analysts had suggested his removal from the ministry last month implied the government was getting cold feet about the proposal.
But since taking over the ministry, Deora has strongly backed the project, saying it was vital for the energy security of the country, which imports 70 percent of the oil it consumes and is able to meet barely half the demand for natural gas.
Deora and Pakistan's oil minister, Amanullah Khan Jadoon, are scheduled to discuss the project during official talks in New Delhi on Friday, officials say.
The pipeline plan will come under more scrutiny next month when US President George W Bush visits New Delhi. The United States, concerned over Iran's nuclear ambitions, has publicly opposed the project.
Washington sees India as a strategic ally and is seeking Indian support to isolate Tehran.
Last year, in a dramatic policy shift, Bush promised India full cooperation in developing its civilian nuclear power programme as long as it placed its civilian reactors under international inspections.
But even so, Indian officials say the country needs to explore other sources of energy for its rapidly expanding economy including accessing liquefied natural gas (LNG) and building pipelines from Iran, Myanmar or Turkmenistan.