A year after they decided to go ahead with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project without India, the two countries on Sunday inked the last of a series of agreements needed to operationalise the deal. With the signing of the export deal in Tehran, Iran has now committed itself to supplying natural gas to Pakistan from 2014.

The export deal was signed by Reza Kasaeizadeh for the Iranian Gas Export Company and Mohammad Naim Sharafat on behalf of Pakistan's Inter State Gas Limited. “This is a happy day. After decades of negotiations, we are witnessing today the execution of the agreement to export more than 21 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from 2014 to Pakistan,” agencies quoted Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Javad Ouji as telling reporters at the contract signing ceremony.

The pipeline will facilitate transfer of natural gas from Iran's biggest gas field in South Pars to Pakistan through its restive Balochistan province. With all the paperwork now complete, Iran is expected to start building the 300-km stretch of the pipeline from Iranshahr to the Pakistani border through the Iranian port of Chabahar from Monday. Iran has already constructed 907 kilometres of the pipeline between the Asalooyeh Energy Zone and Iranshahr.

Pakistan — which is reeling under a severe energy crisis — will now undertake a feasibility study for building its section of the pipeline from the border with Iran to Nawabshah, the hub of the country's gas pipelines in the province of Sindh. This feasibility study alone is expected to take a year to complete and the Pakistan leg of the pipeline will take another three years to construct.

Originally conceived in the mid-1990s, the pipeline was to be a three-nation venture that extended right up to India.

Security considerations and inability to come to an understanding with Pakistan over transmission charges saw India waver time and again over joining the project amid speculation of New Delhi also coming under Washington pressure not to do business with Tehran.

Finally, Iran and Pakistan decided to enter into a bilateral agreement in May 2009.