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Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline off the ground by next year: Aiyar

Islamabad, June 6, IRNA-Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on Monday expressed the confidence that following the on-going preliminary talks with the Iranian and Pakistani officials, the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project will be "off the ground by early next year".

The Indian minister stated this at a press conference after holding extensive talks with his Pakistani counterpart Amanullah Khan Jadoon and meeting Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Islamabad.

Aiyar referring to his talks on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project described these as "great and historic" beginning.

Pakistan and India have formed a Joint Working Group, to intensify interaction on the project and deliberate on its technical, legal and financial aspects.

"The time-line for the Joint Working Group has been laid down and they would come to a decision within course of this year and the project would be able to take off the ground by early next year." Indian petroleum minister said Jadoon will be visiting India by August while he would be coming back to Pakistan by November.

"Geography has placed Pakistan and India to some of the largest gas reservoirs and by jointly accessing these, our two countries can accelerate their high economic growth rates," he added.

To a question about India's security concerns, he said the sincerity of Pakistan in addressing this issue was "not the question".

A statement issued by the Pakistan Petroleum Ministry on Monday said that India has "showed its interest to join gas import projects for the mutual benefit of the two countries" At the end of the second day of talks between Pakistan-India on gas pipeline projects, Aiyar on Monday met Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

The Indian delegation would call upon the president of Pakistan and other important government functionaries on Tuesday before proceeding back to India.

It is expected that a joint communique would also be issued Tuesday.

Aiyar's visit to Pakistan is seen as the first step to explore not only the feasibility of a tri-nation gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan, but also the possibility of cooperation in oil and gas, including investment and trade opportunities.

Aiyar who is on a two-week visit to Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Qatar arrived in Pakistan on Saturday for a three-day visit heading an 11-member delegation.

The Indian petroleum minister is also expected to meet Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar on Tuesday.

The Pakistani official was not available on Monday due to presentation of budget draft to the National Assembly today, Aiyar told reporters.

Pakistan and India are discussing the proposed 2,775-kilometer energy corridor in Pakistan to deliver gas from Iran's South Pars field to the Indian border.

Iran and India have been talking about a pipeline since 1994 but longstanding hostility between India and Pakistan on Kashmir has hindered the multi-billion dollar plan.

Pakistan has agreed to join the project bilaterally if India failed to join it.

... Payvand News - 6/7/05 ... --

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