TEHRAN: Iran has warned India that it would sign a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline deal with Pakistan alone if New Delhi did not swiftly agree terms on transit pricing with Islamabad. Iranian and Pakistani officials are holding a new round of talks this week over finalising the long-delayed pipeline, which would see Iranian gas sent to Pakistan and to India via Pakistan.
But Indian officials have been absent from the talks over the so-called “peace pipeline” as New Delhi and Islamabad have yet to agree over the payment of transit fees by India to Pakistan. “We prefer it to be a tripartite deal, but if it does not happen we will sign it with the Pakistanis,” caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari told reporters. But he repeated that the door is not totally closed for the Indian side. “We are still emphasising that we want it to be tripartite deal. The door is still open for the Indians,” he added.
India said yesterday it remained committed to the deal despite its not attending the new round of talks in Tehran. Discussions on the $7.4-billion project started in 1994, but have been held up by technical and commercial issues. There have also been strong objections to the pipeline from the United States — a key friend of Pakistan and an ever closer ally of India — which is at loggerheads with Iran over its contested nuclear programme.-SANA