RAW tells Aiyar to forget pipeline from Bangladesh

Vol 9, PW 14 (20 Oct 05) People & Policy

Indias external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing is growing increasingly tired of oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyars insistence on pursuing the Bangladesh pipeline option to import gas from Myanmar.

PETROWATCH learns RAW feels the Indian oil and foreign ministries are making a serious mistake by considering Bangladesh as a transit territory for the pipeline. In early October RAW submitted a paper marked Top Secret to the cabinet secretary and the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the proposed pipeline.

Signed by special secretary (east) Ashok Chaturvedi, we understand the RAW note is pessimistic about Bangladesh allowing the Myanmar to India pipeline through its territory in the foreseeable future for a host of political reasons. RAW adds that, in view of the surge of Islamic radicalism in Bangladesh and the expected growth in their strength in days to come, it would be too risky to locate the pipeline or any economic asset in Bangladesh.

Further, the time required to lay a pipeline through Bangladesh (even if that were to happen) would be much more than laying it through India's own territory. The Myanmar pipeline, says the RAW note, would be one sure source of energy and should not be lost as the Iran pipeline or Iran LNG may not easily happen after India voted with the US and Europe against Tehrans nuclear programme.

RAW argues Washington could block the (Iran to India) pipeline either by exerting huge pressure on India or, as a last resort, forcing Pakistan to withdraw from the project. The Myanmar pipeline is one sure trans-border energy option India should not lose out on because of inept bureaucratic handling, advises RAW.

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