India proposes trilateral talks with Iran, Pak for gas project

"... As far as India is concerned, we are in consultation with the government of Iran. We have certain concerns. Concerns about pricing, concerns about security, which have been taken up with the government of Iran," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said here.
Pakistan on Tuesday signed a USD 7.5 billion deal with oil-rich Iran, paving the way for laying the much-delayed natural gas pipeline that was originally envisaged to extend up to India. However, it was not clear whether the deal was about Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement that allows gas sale at agreed terms and without which no transaction can take place.

"We have genuine issues that need to be addressed before we sign up for the (Iran-Pakistan-India) pipeline. We have proposed dates in May for technical level talks in Tehran to iron these out," Oil Secretary S Sundareshan told PTI here.

New Delhi has been boycotting project talks since 2008 after its concerns of safe delivery of gas were ignored. It wants Iran to be responsible for uninterrupted supply of gas through the 1,035-km pipeline length in Pakistan and would pay for the fuel only when it is delivered at Pakistan-India border.

Iran, on the other hand has suggested a trilateral mechanism, meaning contractual provisions between three countries, to ensure safe delivery of gas to India. Under this system, New Delhi pays for its share of gas even if the supplies were to be disrupted in Pakistan, officials said.

Officials said Tehran has been insisting that ownership of gas would be transfered at Iran-Pakistan border while New Delhi wants it to be Pakistan-India border thereby making Iran explicitly responsible for safe delivery of gas.

Noting that India was currently not part of the deal, Pakistan Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, in a statement in Islamabad, has said the heads of agreement dealt with transporting gas meant for India through Pakistani territory if and when India decided to join the project.

India has been apprehensive towards the project as the pipeline will pass through the volatile region of Balochistan and the surge in militancy in Pakistan has only increased India's security concerns about the pipeline.

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