Pointing out that the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline was a “reality,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said though India had some concerns which it needed to consider, he had been told by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India’s keenness to join the project.

Iran had concluded a bilateral agreement with Pakistan on the pipeline and the “door was open for India,” Mr. Mottaki said during a question and answer session after delivering a lecture at the Indian Council of World Affairs here on Tuesday. At the same time, he dropped a veiled hint that Iran could move the gas to the west if India continued to procrastinate on the project. “If we make commitments with other pipelines to other regions, maybe the structure of the project would be small but I hope our Indian friends join it as soon as possible.”

Mr. Mottaki said Iran had already laid over 100 km of the pipeline in its territory and Pakistan had also “started action” on the project which would demonstrate the positive aspects of regional cooperation.

Indian government sources have also expressed the country’s willingness to join the project which, they say, would be economical if it was on land. They dismissed as “speculation” reports of China joining the project if India backed out. New Delhi and Tehran could also cooperate in a big way in developing transit routes through Iran and Afghanistan to Central Asia, Russia and beyond.

Mr. Mottaki said 80 per cent of the 60 lakh tonnes of goods traded between Central Asia and Russia with India were sent by longer routes and only a small portion transited through Iran.

“Therefore Iranian ports in the north and south could help in facilitating exports through Iran and the [proposed] North-South corridor. India can also take part in building a railway line to Afghanistan,” he said.

In his speech, Mr. Mottaki regretted the lack of a unified Asian system for the management of security, political and cultural issues. There was also no pan-Asian framework for financial cooperation on the lines of the Asean, the SAARC and the SCO.

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