India will on Feb. 28, open formal talks with Iran and Oman for a deep-sea gas pipeline - three decades after the idea was floated - when external affairs minister Salman Khurshid meets foreign ministers of the two countries, The Hindustantimes reported on Feb. 28.
Khurshid is to meet Oman's foreign minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah in the afternoon and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif later in the evening. This is the first time that the project, which could cost around $5 billion, will be discussed at the level of foreign ministers, a government official told HT.
The move comes in the backdrop of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline running into trouble on various counts, including Tehran going back on a promised loan of $500 million to Pakistan.
Besides getting natural gas to feed the country's ever-growing hunger to meet its energy requirements, the meetings give India an opportunity to leverage the drift in energy ties between Iran and Pakistan to strengthen its economic ties with the Iran leadership.
Iran has surplus gas and is keen to sell to India, which imports 75% of its crude oil. Many Indian private firms are already in talks with Tehran.
With Pakistan pipeline plan running into trouble and Iran likely to see further easing of sanctions after signing a historic nuclear deal with six Western nations, New Delhi can hope for greater momentum in bilateral economic ties.
Iran and the P5+1 reached a nuclear agreement on November 24, 2013. Iran has agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities for six months in return for sanctions relief. Iran and the P5+1 group have agreed to implement the agreement starting from Jan. 20.
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