It's time to forget the gas pipeline option from Iran

Vol 4, PW 5 (12 Apr 00) People & Policy

Cheap or not, the South Pars LNG consortium has little to worry by way of competition from an overland gas pipeline through Pakistan.

This, despite a tedious spate of reports suggesting that such a pipeline - or pipeline(s) - have once again become a possibility. On a visit to Delhi this month, Turkmenistan's foreign minister Boris Shikmuradov fuelledspeculation with remarks that he has held talks with Pakistani officials to create (in his words): "An appropriate environment so that a pipeline to India via Pakistan could be laid." The same day (3rd April) Pakistani oil ministry official Jehangir Basha said the military-backed regime of General Pervez Musharrafhas no objection to a pipeline running from Iran through Pakistan to India.

Speculation suggests the General's offer comes following a request from President Clinton. Two days later in Delhi, CR Prasad, Chairman of India's Gas Authority of India (GAIL), compounded speculation by revealing he is in talks with Iranian authorities on just such a proposal.

Prasad, however, carefully avoided a question on whether the pipeline would be onshore or offshore. So, what is going on Answer: a lot of talking but not much else! Pakistan's 'Olive Branch' has been cynically dismissed by India's Ministry of External Affairs as a 'gimmick', designed to please the United States.

Behind the Indian rebuttal is a simple message: until Pakistan stops funding the guerrilla outfits sowing terror in Kashmir, the idea of an overland gas pipeline through Pakistan will simply not happen.

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