Iran 'hard sells' gas pipeline to sceptical India

Vol 4, PW 13 (02 Aug 00) People & Policy

Any doubts about Iran's preferred option for gas exports to India will by now have been firmly dispelled.

During a three-day visit to Delhi beginning July 19th, Iranian deputy foreign minister Mohsen Aminzadeh made great play of a 'written guarantee' his government has received from Pakistan with regard to an overland gas pipeline to India. Aminzadeh said Iran prefers the overland pipeline option to LNG and sub-sea option because it is cheaper.

He repeated Tehran's intention to invite Pakistan to join in talks with India, but only at a later date. Tehran believes Pakistan's 'written guarantee' is enough to dispel Indian fears of Pakistan.

Sadly, Iran will have to think again. Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh and foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh made no public comment after their meeting with Aminzadeh but their reaction would have been to treat the Pakistani 'written guarantee' with suspicion.

Singh will remember the ill-fated 'Lahore Declaration', signed between India and Pakistan months before Pakistani troops occupied the heights above Kargil in a campaign backed by General Pervez Musharraf, the country's present leader. An Iranian diplomat in Delhi tells Petrowatch Tehran respects India's security concerns but adds: "Even during the Kargil war Pakistan and India continued to do business in some areas.

Why should a gas pipeline be any different" He adds: "Many countries around the world continue to trade and have economic relations even if they do not have good political relations." Comprehensive press coverage of Aminzadeh's visit to Delhi is proof, said the diplomat, that India is ready to soften its opposition to the overland pipeline option.