Iran, Pakistan to Raise Funds for Gas Pipeline

A00674959.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran and Islamabad agreed on Tuesday to float a joint company to raise funds for a multi-billion-dollar pipeline which is due to take Iran’s rich gas reserves to the energy hungry Pakistan and India.

The decision was taken at a meeting in New York on Tuesday between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the 63rd UN General Assembly meeting.

Iran will provide sovereign guarantee for the proposed company while funds will be raised in Pakistan, Iran and the Middle East.

Briefing journalists on the Ahmadinejad-Zardari meeting, Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman said Iranian and Pakistani foreign ministers will meet on Oct 9 or Oct 10 to work out details.

The project was proposed several years ago but could not be implemented because of a strong US opposition.

The United States opposes any major investment in Iranian gas and petroleum projects and a law requires Washington to impose sanctions on a country engaged in such a project with Tehran.

Ms Rehman said the two sides also had agreed to form two separate teams of five deputy ministers each for fleshing out details of the plan.

“The two sides made good progress” in the Ahmadinejad-Zardari meeting, she said.

Iran and Pakistan have initiated a Gas Sales Purchase Agreement. India and Pakistan have also resolved all bilateral issues including transit fee which saw New Delhi boycotting IPI pipeline talks for about a year.

India has more or less agreed to give Pakistan a transit fee of $200 million per year, which is equivalent to $0.60 per million British thermal unit for allowing passage of the pipeline through that country.

India and Pakistan finally agreed in February 2007 to pay Iran $4.93 per million British thermal units ($4.67/GJ) but some details relating to price adjustment remained open to further negotiation. There was a breakthrough in the talks in April 2008 when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Pakistan and India.

According to the project proposal, the pipeline will begin from Iran’s Assalouyeh Energy Zone in the south and stretch over 1,100 km through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Baluchistan and Sindh but officials now say the route may be changed if China agrees to the project.

The gas will be supplied from the South Pars field. The initial capacity of the pipeline will be 22 billion cubic meter of natural gas per annum, which is expected to be later raised to 55 billion cubic meter. It is expected to cost $7.4 billion.

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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