Underwater pipeline back on India-Iran talks
After being initially dismissed as highly expensive, the idea of having an underwater gas pipeline with Iran seems to be firmly back on the negotiating table between the two countries, the Times of India reported.
Sources revealed that the pipeline project was discussed by India and Iran during the two-day 16th Joint Commission, which ended on Friday. The session was co-chaired by Foreign Minister S M Krishna and Iran's Economy Minister Shamsheddin Hosseini.
While technical groups in the past few months have been exploring the possibility of such a pipeline, which will help India bypass Pakistan, this is the first time in recent times that the issue has been discussed at this level.
India's interest is being attributed to a pro-active approach by Krishna himself to keep Iran, a country of immense strategic significance for India, engaged despite the recent setbacks in relationship over Tehran's nuclear program. "This was among the issues discussed. It will be followed by more discussions between technical groups," said a government source.
Officials said that whether or not an underwater pipeline is economically viable, India's interest in it would also help New Delhi counter Islamabad's claim that India had backed out of the IPI pipeline under pressure from the U.S.
However, pointing to high costs involved in such a pipeline, Iran had insisted that India should not abandon the IPI pipeline project.
While denying that India had dumped the land pipeline which passes through Pakistan, Krishna pointed out to India's concerns about security and pricing that have delayed India's participation.
Underlining Iran's importance for India recently in a speech, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao had said that unilateral sanctions against Iran would adversely impact "our energy security and our attempts to meet the development needs of our people".
Barring the fact that it is home to the second largest gas reserves in the world, Iran is also crucial for India for its role in stabilizing Afghanistan.