India has said that security considerations were delaying its participation in the tri-nation Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, but it had not shut its doors on the project.
“Its not that we’re not interested and we certainly haven’t shut the door on it. It’s true we’ve pushed it to the back burner,” Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said on an online radio show here.
Underlining the need of India’s energy security, Mr. Tharoor said India continued to have legitimate security concerns that needed to be addressed before the deal went through so that New Delhi was certain that its resources remained safe.
“This is simply not the climate in which to contemplate a major multi-billion dollar undertaking that makes our supplies of oil and vulnerable gas to the very people from whose soil we have been attacked,” the minister said.
Conceived over a decade ago, the IPI is a proposed 2,775-km pipeline to deliver natural gas from Iran to Pakistan and India. Discussions were put on hold by India following tensions with Pakistan. New Delhi is also understood to be under pressure from Washington to scrap the deal.
“We would hesitate to mortgage our security or security of our oil and gas supplies from Iran to a pipeline running through Pakistan that exists right now,” Mr. Tharoor said.
“The reason is very clear. We’ve been attacked not once but twice from across the border in Pakistan,” he said.
Running out of time?
There is concern that time may be running out for India since Tehran and Islamabad have already signed the agreement, which will give Pakistan oil from the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf for generation of electricity over a period of 25 years.
Senior Iranian gas officials have previously indicated that the present deal has been signed to facilitate India’s later entry into the deal.
“Now, we have signed the agreement in a form that allows India to join it,” managing director of the National Iranian Gas Export Co Reza Kassaeizadeh, had said.
But recently, Iran has indicated China as a potential third partner if India persists with its indecisiveness and does not come to the table soon.