India: No US Hand in Iran Pipeline Delay

A03518015.jpgTEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- The Indian government, which is already facing an attack over bending to the US on the nuclear deal, has denied that US pressure is preventing it from going ahead with the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project.

Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee denied that the US has asked India not to move forward with the planned pipeline project that would bring natural gas from Iran to India.

The minister informed Parliament that the ministry of petroleum and natural gas has been negotiating the pipeline project with Iran and Pakistan. He further said that several key issues including pricing formula, transit fee and transportation tariff are under discussion.

Pakistan and Iran have already indicated that they are willing to go ahead with the project without India. India and Pakistan are yet to finalize gas transit and transportation fees and India has conveyed that till the transit issue is sorted out it cannot take a decision on the final gas pricing formula. With Pakistan now in a state of emergency, New Delhi has indicated that it is waiting for the political climate to cool down before initiating talks on the transit fees.

The US, however, has expressed its opposition to India’s close ties with Iran. Apart from the reference to the Hyde act, which seeks India’s help in containing Iran, US legislators have been asking India to maintain a distance from Iran and have conveyed their opposition to the IPI gas pipeline.

In the latest criticism, Congressman Ed Markey, an influential politician, has again criticized India for building ties with Iran. “The Indian government knows fully well that Congress has demanded India’s full support in ending Iran’s nuclear program as a key requirement for the US-India nuclear deal.”

“India’s continuing to cozy up to Iran is undermining our ability to isolate Tehran,” said Rep. Markey in a press statement. He has called the nuclear deal a “bad idea” and said that the collapse of the deal would not affect bilateral ties.

Earlier, a group of US legislators had also written a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warning him about India’s continuing ties with Iran saying it could affect the nuclear deal. The US legislators had also been critical of the continuous meetings between Indian and Iranian officials.

So far six meetings of the tripartite Joint Working Group have been held with the last being held in Delhi on June 28 and 29, 2007. Mr. Mukherjee also informed Parliament that three meetings of the India-Pakistan Joint Working Group and five meetings of the India-Iran Special Joint Working Group have been held so far.

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