Summit with Musharraf raises hopes for pipeline

Vol 5, PW 8 (06 Jun 01) People & Policy

Iran's mandate to BHP couldn't be more timely.

Hardly three weeks after Rahgozar sent his letter to Samson, India surprised the world by inviting Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf to Delhi for talks on Kashmir. Caught off guard, Pakistani foreign minister Abdul Sattar on 24th May accepted the invitation on behalf of General Musharraf.

No date has been fixed for the visit, but it's likely to be after the Pakistani budget in late June. Press reports in Pakistan say it will be "sometime in July." Musharrafs visit makes the prospect of an onshore gas pipeline to India through Pakistan more than just wishful thinking.

Even in India, few could have predicted that prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee would rise above the petty insults both countries trade with each other daily and invite him to India for a summit. After all Musharraf is the man blamed for Kargil! If in the weeks ahead India and Pakistan defy the odds by agreeing a solution to Kashmir, the core issue of contention, prospects for an onshore gas pipeline will have radically improved.

India mistrusts Islamabad and has always cautioned against an onshore pipeline, citing "security considerations". If these can be satisfactorily addressed through a series of political summits, then a pipeline from Pakistan will become reality, and that's good news for price-conscious consumers in India.