Bangladesh ready to transit Myanmar gas to India

Vol 8, PW 6 (16 Jun 04) People & Policy

Bangladesh is set to approve a proposal for a gas pipeline running across its territory from Myanmar to India.

Bangladesh energy minister AKM Mosharaff Hossain tells this report that a draft proposal laying out the framework for permission to India for the transit pipeline was sent to the office of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia on 7th June. Zia is expected to personally examine and (hopefully) approve the proposal personally, given local misgivings about approving any gas deal with big brother India.

Once we get approval from her we will send the proposal to the commercial section of the energy ministry, adds Hossain. They will prepare a final report on how much we should charge (India) and what we should undertake.

Hossain said once Zia clears the proposal it would take a week for the commercial section of the energy ministry to draw up a final proposal. Under scrutiny is a detailed plan prepared by private sector Bangladesh firm Mohana Holdings.

With this proposal is an "exhaustive note" by Bangladesh ministry bureaucrats on the advantages and disadvantages of the Mohana proposal. Hossain believes Bangladesh could earn at least $120m annually as transit fees by allowing the pipeline through its territory.

He also offers hope on the long-pending and acutely sensitive issue of exporting Bangladeshi gas to India. "We will ask Mohana Holdings to lay the pipeline in such a way that it can be used by companies in Bangladesh to transport gas to India with a little connection here and there," he said.

But he hastens to add there is no proposal under examination to export Bangladesh gas to India. Transit rights for Myanmar gas across Bangladesh to India received a boost this month with the Delhi visit of Bangladesh foreign minister Morshed Khan who met several ministers in the newly elected Congress-led government including oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.

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