TEHRAN (FNA)- Officials from Iran, India and Pakistan are slated to convene in a meeting in Tehran next month to continue talks over a 7.4-billion-dollar pipeline project which is due to take Iran's gas to the two energy hungry South Asian nations.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a symposium on 'Safety Instrumentation in Oil and Gas industry' in New Delhi this week, Indian Oil and Petroleum Secretary, M.S. Srinivasan reiterated his country's insistence on gas delivery from Iran at the India-Pakistan border.
He added that the stated position of Iran as of now has been that they would deliver the gas for both countries at Iran-Pakistan border.
Srinivasan also said there would be no extension of the deadline for bids for its latest oil and gas asset licensing beyond the end of June. The deadline had been extended three times already, the latest being in May.
India had missed a meeting in September 2007 citing issues with its neighbor, which triggered a pledge from Iran and Pakistan to press ahead without Indian participation.
Analysts say that the Government wants to reduce the risk of supplies being cut during times of tension between the two long-time rivals.
India and Pakistan are keen to tie up future energy supplies to fuel their fast-growing economies, but the United States has tried to discourage any deal with Iran, because of Tehran's progress in the nuclear technology.
The United States accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while it has never presented any corroborative document to substantiate its allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
The US is at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran's nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.
Iran is under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West's illegitimate calls to give up its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) right of uranium enrichment, saying the demand is politically tainted and illogical.
Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is expected to follow-up on pipeline talks with Iran during his visit to Tehran late next month.
Mukherjee's visit to Iran comes about three months after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited India to discuss the IPI gas pipeline deal.
Upon completion, the 2,775-kilometer gas pipeline will have the capacity to transfer 2.46 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year from Iran's South Pars field to India via Pakistan.
According to Indian ministry sources, the IPI gas pipeline is quite crucial for New Delhi as after signing of the agreement, 60 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) of gas is expected to be supplied in phase-I, which will be shared equally between India and Pakistan.
In phase-II, 90 mmscmd of gas will be supplied to India and Pakistan. So far six meetings of the trilateral joint working group (JWG) of the participating countries have been held with the last meeting being held in New Delhi on June 28-29, 2007.
India, Asia's third-largest economy, can produce only half the gas it needs to generate electricity, causing blackouts and curbing economic growth. Demand may more than double to 400 million cubic meters a day by 2025 if the economy grows at the projected rate of 7 to 8 percent a year, according to the Indian oil ministry.
Iran plans to start exporting gas to Pakistan in 2011. Iran has completed half the pipeline, which can carry 110 million cubic meters of gas a day, National Iranian Gas Company (NIOC) said in April. India uses about 108 million cubic meters of gas a day, according to a BP Plc report.
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