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Friday, April 28, 2006

India may stay away from Iran pipeline

ISLAMABAD, April 28(Pakistan Dawn): India is expected to formally join $5billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline by mid May and stay away from Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline in the wake of its civil-nuclear energy pact with the United States.

Pakistan has been informed through informal channels that Indian cabinet would approve a plan by early next month to request Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to join the pipeline through the Asian Development Bank.

The project would then be renamed as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, sources in the petroleum ministry said on Thursday.

The Indian petroleum ministry, they said, was believed to have already referred the case of TAPI to the cabinet for approval.

Based on interactions with Indian authorities recently, the sources said, it was Islamabad’s understanding that India would not be joining the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project at least for the time being, leaving Iran and Pakistan to pursue the project.

The sources, however, said a number of issues on the TAP project were still to be legally resolved, including certification of the Daulatabad gas field reserves, gas volumes to be transported by the pipeline, gas pricing, pipeline security and the overall project structure, which is presently being examined.

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan had formally asked India on Feb 15 this year to decide about joining the gas pipeline project by May 15, 2006.

The project is expected to take precedence over Iranian and Qatari gas imports to India and Pakistan because of its cost effectiveness. It would cost $5billion against $7 billion Iran-Pakistan-India and $8 billion Qatar-Pakistan-India pipelines.

A clear response from India on the TAP project is a must before launching of the detailed feasibility study and engineering design of the project by June this year.

The ADB had already prepared various projects structures of the gas pipeline but a decision on “India factor” would be required before it is presented to possible consortium partners. These sources said Turkmenistan had told participants that an independent firm had confirmed gas reserves of over 2.3 trillion cubic meters at the Daulatabad field.
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