Iran pipeline low on Vajpayee's agenda for Tehran

Vol 5, PW 4 (11 Apr 01) People & Policy

Don't get too excited about prime minister Vajpayee's three-day visit to Iran, beginning 10th March.

Meetings are scheduled with everybody, but if you think energy issues will take pride of place, you're wrong! A vague 'Energy MoU' is planned, but so are MoUs in other areas. "This visit can't be seen through the prism of a pipeline," a source (very) close to Vajpayee tells Petrowatch.

"They'll be talking about many other issues: bi-lateral trade, regional security, Afghanistan." K.V Rajan, formally Secretary (East), but now mysteriously seconded to the visiting delegation as 'Special Adviser' following his retirement on 30th March, confirmed this on 9th April in a meeting with journalists.

Rajan said India still hasn't made up its mind over which option to back - an overland pipeline, LNG or sub-sea - and thus wouldn't be signing anything specific. Asked if India plans to bring Pakistan into the picture, Rajan responded parrot-like with an emphatic and by now typical, "No.

This is a bi-lateral discussion. There are no plans to include Pakistan." So when will India know which option to back According to a source close to the PM, when the oil ministry takes receipt of a new study on the sub-sea option it has commissioned from international consultants.

Which option does prime minister Vajpayee prefer "He has an open mind on the issue," we learn "He'll accept whatever's the most technically feasible."