India finally abandons Bangladesh gas pipeline option

Vol 9, PW 15 (03 Nov 05) People & Policy

Mani Shankar Aiyar appears to have reconciled himself to the fact that gas from Myanmar to India will not pass through Bangladesh.

Aiyars volte-face stems from feedback from talks between oil ministry officials and visiting Myanmar energy minister Brigadier Lun Thi in Delhi last month. A well-placed source tells this report Delhi is tired of trying to persuade Bangladesh authorities to allow pipeline passage through its territory.

I dont think we can get the Bangladesh pipeline proposal through soon enough to satisfy the Burmese, Aiyar is believed to have told a meeting of formerIndian Foreign Service colleagues last week. They (Bangladesh) have proved difficult, he told the Association of Indian Diplomats.

But I can't see why. They would have made so much money in transmission fees without really investing much.

Aiyars gloom seems to have been communicated to his juniors in the oil ministry and to the bosses of state-owned oil and gas companies, particularly GAIL, which would have played a critical role in the project. GAIL chief Proshanto Banerjee is understood to have told his officials to instead prepare for a significantly more expensive pipeline proposal that would circumvent Bangladesh and bring Myanmar gas to India through Indias northeastern states, which enjoy a common border with Myanmar.

Get ready for the longer route through the northeast, he is believed to have told an internal business development group meeting at GAIL last month. I think we have a good chance of getting this pipeline project through.

A pipeline through Bangladesh is as good as gone, Banerjee is believed to have added. A source tells us Banerjee told the meeting that the Bangladesh pipeline route is not viable.

He said: It is uncertain. We will have to work out the northeast India route.

During the meeting, GAIL officials heard Banerjee say the northeast route, would make the pipeline more expensive to lay but we dont have a choice.

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