Given the lack of urgency New Delhi is displaying in finalising the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, Tehran has sent across a note with new proposals aimed at addressing lingering Indian concerns...
29 July 2008
Iranian government replies to Indian ‘non-paper’ on gas pipeline
New Delhi: In an attempt to address the pointed concerns India raised about the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline during the visit here of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last April, the Iranian government has handed over some fresh proposals and called for talks to quickly finalise the deal.
The Iranian proposals are contained in a ‘non-paper’ that was delivered to the Indian embassy in Tehran last week, The Hindu has learned. Drafted as a response to the ‘non-paper’ handed over by the Prime Minister’s Office to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s delegation at the end of his five-hour visit to Delhi on April 29, the Iranian note identified for the first time the specific offshore fields which will be used to feed the $7.4 billion pipeline with natural gas for Pakistan and India.
During the visit, the Iranian President had proposed an accelerated time-frame of 45 days for resolving the outstanding issues but no technical level meeting of the two sides has taken place since then. The Iranian non-paper is Tehran’s way of reinvigorating the process, since New Delhi does not appear to be in a hurry to schedule a meeting or resolve its concerns through technical or political negotiations.
In its non-paper, the PMO had raised a number of issues. Among these were the question of security of transit through Pakistan and India’s desire to take delivery of its share of the gas not on the Iran-Pakistan border as has been envisaged till now but at the Pakistan-India border. India also expressed concern about Iran’s failure to nominate the gas fields concerned for the pipeline. Finally, the Indian side sought an Iranian response to the possibility of the three partner countries taking commercial stakes in downstream projects in each other’s territories as a means of providing an additional layer of protection against wilful disruption of gas supply.
The Iranian note identifies phases 19, 20 and 21 of the massive South Pars offshore gas field as the source of feedstock for the pipeline and says other phases can also be deployed to maintain adequate pressure at all times.
It also says that Tehran is prepared to look at a “trilateral arrangement” for the delivery of gas at the Pakistan-India border. On the question of cross-investments too, the Iranian non-paper says suitable arrangements can be examined.
While Indian officials feel Iran is “not serious” about the pipeline and is only looking to score propaganda points over the U.S. by demonstrating it is not isolated, the Iranian side harbours doubts about India’s sincerity, given Washington’s hostility to the gas deal.