Door open for India to rejoin IPI: Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said the "door is open" for India to rejoin the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline but indicated that Iran could not wait indefinitely and the structure of the project could change in the future, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

In a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in New Delhi on Monday, the two sides emphasized on closer cooperation in the field of energy.

The Indian officials also flagged New Delhi's interest in the IPI gas pipeline project.

"Iran has in place a bilateral arrangement with Pakistan on the gas pipeline and both the countries have begun work on the project," Mottaki said.

"We have a bilateral arrangement with Pakistan and the door is open for our Indian friends. IPI will be a reality ... but I am not sure about the future," he said in an interaction at the Indian Council of World Affairs.

Mottaki claimed that more than 100 km of the pipeline has already been laid on the Iranian side and the Pakistani side has also "started action" on its side of the border.

India also raised the issue of the implementation of the Liquefied Natural Gas deal signed in 2005 for the supply of five million tons per annum of gas, Indian daily The Hindu reported.

New Delhi maintained that as far as it was concerned, the agreement was signed and reopening it to accommodate Tehran's desire for higher rates was unacceptable.

Iran, Pakistan, and India conceptualized a gas pipeline project in 1990s, dubbed as the IPI - or peace - pipeline to help boost peace and security in the region.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari inked a $7.5 billion agreement in Tehran on May 23, finalizing the deal to transfer gas from Iran to Pakistan, Press TV reported.

According to the deal, Iran will initially transfer 30 million cubic meters of gas per day to Pakistan, but will eventually increase the transfer to 60 million cubic meters per day.

Negotiations over the project were initiated in 1994 between the three countries but there were obstacles to closing the three-way deal due to tension between India and Pakistan.

Due to the tense India-Pakistan relations, New Delhi stepped back from the later stages of negotiations, although it has never formally withdrawn from the project.

During the talks, the Indian officials had asked Iran to sort out a number of issues, such as the security of the pipeline and the gas price formula.

India didn't participate in the last several rounds of talks, but Iran repeatedly encouraged India to rejoin the process.

The IPI gas pipeline is a proposed 2,775-kilometer pipeline to deliver natural gas from Iran to Pakistan and India. 

The project is expected to greatly benefit India and Pakistan, which do not have sufficient natural gas to meet their rapidly increasing domestic demand.

Pakistan -- facing an energy crisis -- plans to generate 4,600 megawatts of electricity with Iranian natural gas.

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