India's bid to acquire BP's stake in a Vietnamese offshore gas field is not a closed chapter. On a different plane, the unsettled issue of Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline calls for a business decision beyond diplomacy.

These two unrelated aspects were spelt out by Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora and Secretary S. Sundareshan in response to questions from the media on the sidelines of the ministry's road show, NELP IX, which began here on Thursday.

Mr. Deora said efforts to solve the issue of mode of payments for Iranian crude, in view of uncertainties over the relevant Asian clearing channel, were continuing at present. On the domestic front, the Minister said, the government was “trying [its] best” to ensure that “the prices [of diesel, kerosene, and LPG] are not increased.” The assurance was given in the context of a question about the current decontrol of petrol. On payments for Iranian crude, it was emphasised that oil from Iran “is still flowing to India on the basis of guarantees which the companies [concerned] are giving.” India would like to maintain its good relations with Iran, and “a solution will be found.”

Agreeing with the suggestion that the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline idea was becoming a pipedream, the Minister said the authorities in Islamabad were already informed that the onus of ensuring delivery at their border was entirely theirs. On a related issue, he expressed optimism about India getting supplies from Turkmenistan in the context of confidence being exuded by Afghanistan as a potential partner.

A Russian company, TNKBP, was being mentioned, although not officially, as a prospective buyer of BP's stake in the Vietnamese offshore gas field of interest to India. However, it would be PetroVietnam's call to make, and there was continuing harmony between New Delhi and Hanoi, said the Minister and the Secretary.

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