Sujay Mehdudia

NEW DELHI: The $7.4 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will once again be the focal point of discussions during a two-day visit of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Iran.

Mr. Mukherjee is scheduled to visit Tehran from July 29-30 to attend the India-Iran Joint Commission meeting.

Following pressure from the Left parties last month, the UPA government said it was ready to give a final shape to the pipeline and indicated that Mr. Mukherjee’s visit could well be used to break the ice between the two nations and pave the way for trilateral talks.

“The project is very vital from the energy security point of view and the deficiency that India faced in gas supplies. The government wants the project to go through and this could be the occasion to put all issues in the right perspective,” a senior Petroleum Ministry official said.

The government has drawn flak for not doing much to see the project through and wilting under alleged U.S. pressure not to deal with Iran.

During his visit to India on April 29, Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad set a 45-day deadline to sort out all issues pertaining to the project but there has been no progress. Officials said India would discuss with Iran the “safety and security” issues that were taken up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Mr. Ahmadinejad.

‘No hard feelings’

PTI reports:

Mr. Mukherjee has said he has no hard feelings for the Left, despite the parting of ways.

Asked by NDTV whether the two sides can do business again in future, he said: “how can I say right now? Let us wait how circumstances will unfold. Let us not predict and be political astrologers.”

To a question whether this meant that the Congress was keeping its option open, he said: “I do not keep options open and do not keep options closed. Let us how the situation unfolds itself and how circumstances go.”

He said: “these four years, despite difference of perceptions and divergence of views we carried on. For the Left parties, I have sad feelings but no bitterness. We have no hard feelings, to be frank...I have no bitterness towards the Left leaders and Left leaders too have never attacked me personally,” he said.

With demands for making public the tapes on vote-for-cash gathering momentum, Mr. Mukherjee said he would not mind them being kept confidential for a while till the investigations were over. — PTI