Iran sees brightened prospects for gas pipeline

Wednesday, 23 July 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Iran feels the thaw in India-Pakistan ties has revived the prospects of a pipeline to carry Iranian gas to the subcontinent.

"We are hopeful that the new climate of friendship (between India and Pakistan) will remove all problems (in the way of the proposed pipeline)," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh said in an address to Indian business leaders at a meeting here Tuesday.

"The economic justifications of the proposed pipeline are so huge that they overshadow any problem or obstacle including political (opposition)," he told the meeting organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

India and Iran agree on the mutual economic benefits of the pipeline, which would carry natural gas from Iran to India's Western coast, but differ on the mode of transportation.

While Iran advocates an overland pipeline through Pakistan, India favours a deep-sea pipeline skirting the Pakistani coast due to security considerations, despite Islamabad's assurance to guarantee the pipeline's security.

New Delhi and Tehran have jointly commissioned two feasibility studies on their preferred mode of transport.

"We are discussing all possible options for gas export. The results of the feasibility study will decide what course the pipeline will take," Aminzadeh said.

He said during his talks here with Indian officials the two sides had agreed to resume negotiations on the pipeline.

The Iranian minister underscored the importance of trade and economic ties while speaking about "fresh beginnings" in India-Pakistan relations.

"Trade has been the most stable element in the historical relations between India and Iran," he said, referring to the "signs of improvement" in India-Pakistan relations.

His comments appeared to endorse New Delhi's stand that enhanced bilateral economic cooperation would lead to better political ties between India and Pakistan and the resolution of outstanding problems.

Aminzadeh, who held talks with Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal Monday under the rubric of Indo-Iranian strategic talks, said the two countries were entering a new phase in their cooperation through infrastructure development.

The development of Chabahar port and the construction of the 600-km-long Chabahar-Fahraj railway line to link the port with Iran's rail and road network would provide both countries access to Central Asia and Caucasus, the Caspian Sea, Russia and Turkey.

The North-South Transport Corridor between India, Iran and Russia would provide another access for the two countries to Europe, Central Asia and other countries of the region, he noted.

Besides holding talks with Sibal, Aminzadeh, who wound up a five-day visit to India, also met National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha.
Source: IANS
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