Bring Pakistan into this project, now!

Vol 4, PW 26 (14 Feb 01) People & Policy

India's reluctance to consider a pipeline through Pakistan is no secret.

Iran knows this, and Iranian officials are pushing hard for a tri-lateral 'Security Framework Agreement' designed to calm Indian fears by tying down Pakistan to a rigid set of rules ahead ofits entry as a third partner. "If Pakistan misbehaves the idea is to work out an arrangement where it won't be shooting itself in the foot," a source tells Petrowatch, "It'll be shooting itself in the head." Among the creative scenarios played out is one that commits Pakistan to buying power generated in India by piped gas from Iran so that if Islamabad "turns off the tap" it would deprive itself of electricity.

Another scenario is where should Pakistan "turn off the tap", as India fears it might, Iran would shut supplies to Pakistan, a "lose-lose" for all. Tehran is promoting these and other scenarios to dampen Indian hostility to Pakistani inclusion in a three-way treaty, or 'Security Framework Agreement'.

"Once the political impediments are removed", argues an insider, "the whole project can shift to the private sector and banks". Pakistan has not been invited to the Tehran meeting for the simple reason that India still wants to keep this a bi-lateral discussion.

But for how long The longer Islamabad is kept out, the less likely it is India will ever see gas from Iran.