Seeking to expand the area of cooperation and take the economic engagement to a new level, the Petroleum Secretaries of India and Pakistan are scheduled to hold bilateral talks in New Delhi on March 23.

A high-level delegation, led by Pakistan's Petroleum and Natural Resources Secretary Mohammad Ejaz, will be in New Delhi from March 23 to 25 to hold talks on ways to facilitate trade in petroleum products and petrochemicals between the two nations. Both the sides are also likely to decide on putting in place a new conduit, mostly the pipeline method, for transportation of these products.

Officials in the Petroleum Ministry said that Pakistan was learnt to have already given its go-ahead for transportation of petrochemicals through the land route laden in trucks. However, the Indian side, particularly the oil companies, which had been pushing for opening of the land route for transportation of petrochemicals, is yet to respond to the situation positively.

Both sides are also likely to hold talks on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, including transit fee for wheeling of gas through this pipeline en route to India.

The Pakistan delegation will also take part in the Asia Gas Summit being held in the Capital from March 23. The summit will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Both the sides are likely to exchange information on various technical issues during the bilateral meeting and also place various proposals for petroleum trade for consideration.

India has already offered to export petrol, diesel and other petroleum products to Pakistan and there is already a talk of building of pipeline from the Mathura, Panipat and Bhatinda refineries for transporting petroleum products. Pakistan's existing refining capacity meets only half its total domestic requirement. On the other hand, India now exports almost one-fourth of its 185 million-tonne capacity.

While Pakistan allowed import of diesel from India, it still bans import of petrol and other petroleum products. None of the Indian refiners has, however, been able to export diesel to Pakistan as it gets the fuel at discounted price from Gulf nations such as Kuwait.