TEHRAN (FNA)- Pakistan foresees the possibility of a breakthrough with India on the Kashmir dispute in the next few months.
Backing President Asif Ali Zaradari’s remarks that some ‘good news’ for Kashmiris was on the anvil, Pakistan’s High Commissioner in India Shahid Malik said there was every possibility of some measure being taken over the next few months. He, however, declined to specify the exact nature of the breakthrough.
“There is a general feeling in Pakistan at the highest level that since so many channels are operating for such a long time, there is every possibility of some measures being taken over the next few months. But, I cannot tell you specifically what exactly is going to happen, that is for the president to say,” he said.
Maintaining that the political spectrum in Pakistan had a huge desire for better relations with India, he stressed progress on all issues. “It will not be wise to only focus on one issue and leave the others behind,” he said, adding that it was vital to address the Kashmir issue. He further emphasized that Kashmir continued to be the core issue for Pakistan.
Malik added that Pakistan had proposed nuclear and conventional confidence building measures (CBMs), to India that were under review. He said the issue was being discussed by the foreign secretaries.
However, he said the imbalance in bilateral trade was a source of concern. Despite India lifting all restriction on imports from Pakistan, the balance of trade was still tilted towards India. “We have been telling the Indian side that despite the no-restriction’s clause from India, we have been unable to export much due to the non-tariff barriers and excessive tariff against our goods,” he said.
He revealed that Pakistan had submitted a list of 25 items that were being treated unfairly by India. “The Indian government is examining the list and we are awaiting its response,” he added.
He further said that the two-way volume of trade had increased by 550 percent during the last four years. Malik said that allegations of Pakistan’s violating the ceasefire on the Line of Control were not true. “It is not in our interest to overturn whatever we have been able to achieve in the last few years,” he stated.
On the impact of the nuclear deal between India and the United States, Malik said he did not see any relevance of the deal to India’s discussion with Pakistan on various issues including Kashmir.
He conceded that there was some skepticism about the anti-terror mechanism in India. But, he felt that differences of perception on terrorism or terror-related activities should not slow down or stall the peace process.
He said there were certain reservations in India about the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline while Pakistan and Iran were keen to start the project at the earliest.
Iran and Pakistan initiated a Gas Sales Purchase Agreement earlier this year. Indian and Pakistani officials also announced earlier this year that they had resolved almost 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.