India and Pakistan meet next month for pipeline talks

Vol 9, PW 5 (16 Jun 05) People & Policy

Indian and Pakistani officials will hold their first meeting in Delhi next month to discuss the proposed Iran to India gas pipeline through Pakistan.

Dates for the meeting of the Joint Working Group will be finalised when the Indian delegation led by oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar returns to Delhi from Tehran. Indian oil secretary Sushil Tripathi and his Pakistan counterpart Ahmad Waqar will head the JWG.

The political will is evolving in Pakistan on the pipeline issue, Aiyar told PETROWATCH on his recent trip to Islamabad. By 31st December it will be clear which of the three pipelines Pakistan will choose for its gas supplies.

Pakistan is discussing three pipeline routes simultaneously: the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline and an underwater pipeline from Qatar. Aiyar said India would brief Pakistan on the discussions it has been holding with Iran over the past six months during next months meetings in Delhi.

Negotiations with Iran are far more advanced, he said. Pakistan needs to catch up with us.

During his stay in Pakistan, particularly after his meeting with Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf, Aiyar was upbeat. However, this report learns that during three days of negotiations from 5th to 7th June the Pakistani side remained cautious.

If our minister spoke for 40 minutes (Pakistan oil minister) Jadoon spoke only for four minutes, joked an official on the Indian side. Humour aside, Indian diplomats in Islamabad tell this report US pressure on Pakistan to abandon the Iran pipeline project is growing, forcing Pakistan to reconsider its position.

Nobody used the US word but we felt it there in the background we learn. Pakistan wanted to know about our pricing strategy and how hard we planned to negotiate with Iran.

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