Pakistan proposes tripartite talks on Iran-India gas line

Pakistani officials have proposed tripartite talks on a memorandum of understanding among Pakistan, Iran, and India to take political action to resolve issues surrounding the proposed Iran-India natural gas pipeline. 'Our proposal is that, before we start talking in commercial terms, we should have the three governments come to a political confirmation and commitment at the top authority,' Pakistan Minister of Petroleum Usman Aminuddin said in an interview with the Iranian News Agency.


ISLAMABAD�Pakistani officials have proposed tripartite talks on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) among Pakistan, Iran, and India to take political action to resolve issues surrounding the proposed Iran-India natural gas pipeline.

"Our proposal is that, before we start talking in commercial terms, we should have the three governments come to a political confirmation and commitment at the top authority," Pakistan Minister of Petroleum Usman Aminuddin said in an interview with the Iranian News Agency (IRNA). "The three oil ministers should get together to sign a MOU," he said.

When asked if Pakistan had any reservations about the project, Aminuddin replied, "We have no problem. We don't have any concern. We have no ill-intention."

The minister gave the assurance that, if an accord were signed, it would not be just a bilateral or trilateral agreement but an international one "because multinational and international financial institutions will be involved. So it will be an international commitment, and whatever concern there is, it will be duly addressed," he told IRNA.

Aminuddin says Pakistan Sec. of Petroleum Abdullah Yousaf recently visited Tehran to discuss the issue.

The minister claims India is also interested in the project and does not object to it, although India has so far had a somewhat cold response to Pakistan's proposal to allow the pipeline to pass through its territory (OGJ Online, May 12, 2000).

"What they [India] have is security concerns...They have agreed to have a bilateral commitment with Iran, and a ministerial-level meeting between the two sides will be held next month," he said.

Aminuddin noted that cooperative relations between Iran and Pakistan had been agreed in recent months, particularly after the visit of the Pakistani chief executive, Gen. Parvez Musharraf, to Tehran. "We have recommenced taking oil from Iran, and the supply will begin in July. The second breakthrough is the gas pipeline," said Aminuddin.

He also noted that Iran had agreed to reopen a joint venture Pak-Iran refinery, which has been closed due to "some problems." An Iranian delegation is due to visit Islamabad for talks on the plant.

Asked what Pakistan's response would be regarding the joint projects, in light of US sanctions against Iran, Aminudden says Pakistan doesn't foresee any difficulty. "It is in the interest of the west that this region is tension-free. This region is a big market that the western countries have."

He says, as far as Pakistan is concerned, "We are moving ahead with our commitments and plans."

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