Vol 3, PW 9 (26 May 99) Midstream & Downstream

Across the border in Pakistan, the likelihood of a gas pipeline bringing in supplies to India from Iran took a knock this month when Pakistani officials again rejected the idea of an Indian extension, in a meeting with a visiting Iranian delegation of energy officials, led by Hussain Kazempour Ardebelli, a senior oil and gas advisor to the Iranian government.

Iran wants a proposed 1,638km gas pipeline carrying (approx) 1.6bn cubic feet of gas per day from its gasfields to the Pakistani province of Baluchistan to be extended to India, in a proposal backed by India but consistently blocked by Pakistan for narrow geo-political reasons. Pakistan has agreed to let the National Iranian Gas Company and Iranian Gas Systems undertake a feasibility study for the pipeline, but only for Pakistan.

In public, Pakistan insists there is enough domestic demand to soak up Iranian gas without the need for a pipeline extension to India. The truth is Pakistan will do everything to prevent a strengthening of the warm friendship between India and Iran, and is unwilling to countenance a physical trans-national link by way of a gas pipeline.

Why History. At the height of the Cold War Pakistan was seen by India and Iran (both Soviet allies) as a US puppet.

Iranian hostility to Pakistani meddling in Afghanistan did not help. Both Pakistan and Iran are Muslim states but links between (Shia) Iran and India have always been warmer than between (Sunni) Pakistan and Iran.

Only an act of statesmanship will see this project through.