Monday, December 20, 2004

Gasline tops Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz Iran visit agenda

News: "Gasline tops PM’s Iran visit agenda


ISLAMABAD, Dec 20 : Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is to visit Iran next month having Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline on top of the bilateral agenda, as India is still reluctant to come forward for Iranian gas through Pakistan.

According to the officials, the dates of the PM’s visit are not yet decided but he would certainly be visiting Tehran by the end of January or early February. Other than the pipeline, the prime minister is likely to take up active discussion with his Iranian counterpart on making the ECO more effective especially for regional energy trade.

Cooperation of border forces with regard to checking cross-border smuggling of petroleum and other products is an issue, which the two countries are already working on. There are also chances of bartering oil against food items like rice between Iran and Pakistan respectively, the official added.

The sources said that materialization of Iran-Pakistan-India Gas Pipeline does not fall in near future while projections of domestic demand are compelling Islamabad to go for a bilateral pipeline ahead of any other transnational project of the sort. The officials were of the view that the proposed Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline would not only suffice the futuristic demand for gas in Pakistan but would also be plausible for onward export through the under-construction Gawadar Port.

The officials opined that it was high time to pursue such a pipeline, as Pakistan has signed agreement to deepen the Gawadar Port with China, the main financier as well as builder of the port. This would also flourish the gas processing industry in Pakistan, maintained the officials.

So far, the officials said, the technical experts of the two countries have done spadework on the pipeline between the two countries, which would be cost-effective in terms of its manageable length. Considering Gawadar as state-of-the-art port in near future, Iranians are more than willing to transmit gas to Pakistan for onward export in addition to consumption within Pakistan, should the need arises, the officials added.

The two countries had agreed during the tenure of former prime minister Jamali to initiate work on Pak-Iran gas pipeline having India aversive to Iran-India Gas pipeline crossing through Pakistani territories. During the recent visit of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to India, Indians have rather conditioned the Pipeline through Pakistan with across Pakistan trade access to Central Asia."

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