India seeks pipeline for economic package

Wednesday, 24 November 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India Wednesday underlined that a proposed gas pipeline from Iran via Pakistan would have to be part of a comprehensive economic package, including most favoured nation (MFN) status for India.

During a meeting with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Pakistani Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Amanullah Khan Jadon, Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar stressed the need for extending the proposed cooperation on a gas pipeline to other economic and trade spheres.

"We stressed that the steps being taken by Pakistan with respect to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline would create mutual dependence," Aiyar told the media after a 45-minute meeting.

"We need to replicate this mutual dependence in other areas through wider trade and economic relations."

Aiyar said that India has sought that the pipeline transit corridor through Pakistan should extend to Central Asia and Afghanistan and not be restricted to just Iran.

"We have desired that it should be spread in every direction," Aiyar said. "The question of a transit corridor to Iran and Central Asia is very much part of the trade and economic exchange."

Focusing on possible cooperation in the energy sector, both sides shared views on energy security in the national, regional and global context.

With India's gas requirement expected to grow exponentially from 90 million standard cubic metres per day to 400 million standard cubic metres per day in two decades, the need to access gas is very vital to fuel development.

Aiyar said this is the first time such detailed talks had been held between India and Pakistan on energy security in the context of the two nations and the SAARC region, as also Asian and global issues.

"The linkage of energy security being hitched to regional and global points of view was well underlined."

During the talks, Aziz had said Pakistan was anyway going ahead with the proposed pipeline and planned to source gas from Iran and was in talks for also sourcing supplies from Qatar.

Aiyar informed Aziz about India's keenness to pursue the talks on the pipeline as also possible diesel exports to Pakistan and the two letters he had written to his counterpart Jadon, who assured an early reply.

"We informed that we are more than willing to meet the counterpart either in India or Pakistan. The formal answer will be coming shortly," Aiyar said.

"We have stressed that the economic relations cannot be kept restricted. It is part of the comprehensive economic and trade relations and would require talks with other concerned ministries," the minister said.

India has also stressed that "the MFN status is very much part of the economic and trade issues".

Lauding the Pakistani prime minister's knowledge of energy issues beside his expertise in the economic sphere, Aiyar admitted that Aziz had clarified that "economic and trade issues cannot be isolated from politics. He mentioned the Jammu and Kashmir issue during the talks".

During a breakfast meeting with select Indian editors, Aziz had underlined that Pakistan was planning to go ahead with gas pipeline projects considering its own energy requirement.

"We are not dependent on India," Aziz said, adding at the same time that India's participation would be desirable.

Aziz said it would be wrong to conclude that Pakistan was attracted to the project only because of the expected annual royalty of an estimated $600-800 million from India.

Source: IANS
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