Pakistan reassures India over gas pipeline

Vol 4, PW 11 (05 Jul 00) People & Policy

If it is true it marks a further attempt by Iran to convince India of the merits of joining hands with Pakistan in a tripartite agreement to construct a gas pipeline across the three countries.

Shortly after returning to India from the World Petroleum Congress on June 20th, oil minister Ram Naik announced, "that a high-level ministerial delegation from Iran" will this month be visiting India. Among topics on the table: a gas pipeline to India running through Pakistan.

News of the Iranian visit could not be confirmed by the Iranian embassy in Delhi. Contacted by Petrowatch on July 3rd, the Second Secretary Protocol, who declined to give his name, said he had no information on the visit and was unable to comment.

Yet momentum for some kind of agreement is clearly growing. On 26th June Pakistan oil minister Usman Aminuddin told India Abroad News Service that the oil ministers of Iran, India and Pakistan should sign an MOU as a prelude to commercial negotiations.

"The three governments should come to a political commitment," said Aminuddin, "We have no problem, we have no ill intentions." Aminuddin tried to placate Indian fears that Pakistan might "turn off the tap" in the event of future hostilities. "The MOU will not just be a trilateral agreement but an international one because international financial institutions will be involved," he adds, " It will be an international commitment and India's concerns would be duly addressed." On a visit to Teheran in May, Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh rejected any idea of a tripartite agreement between the three countries.

It seems unlikely his hostility will have diminished in the six weeks since the visit.