India should bypass Pakistan for gas pipeline with Iran: Assocham

New Delhi: The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) has suggested that India should take advantage of the removal of western sanctions on Iran and should bypass Pakistan to import natural gas from Iran.

“Lifting of western sanctions on Iran throws up a great opportunity for India to transport natural gas from Iran to Porbandar port in Gujarat, bypassing Pakistan — the main sticking point for other multilateral projects of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI),” the industry body said.

The trade association also recommended that the undersea pipeline project should bring Iranian gas to India via the Arabian Sea. Further, it said India should increase its merchandise trade with Iran by signing a preferential trade agreement (PTA), citing the example of one with Pakistan that has boosted its exports to Iran and increased bilateral trade as well.

“With the IPI pipeline still stuck and the TAPI pipeline yet to take off, the South Asia Gas Enterprises Pvt (SAGE) has proposed an under sea pipeline bypassing Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to transport up to 1.1 billion standard cubic feet per day of gas from Chabahar in Iran and Ra’s al Jifan in Oman to Porbandar in Gujarat with a spur line to Mumbai later. The 1,200km to 1,300 km pipeline is set to cost around $4.5 billion,” the chamber pointed out.

Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat remarked that the proposed pipeline projects involving Pakistan may not materialise due to the critical political situation. “Given the kind of serious political problems, the proposed pipeline projects involving Pakistan, it is feared, may remain a pipe dream. All other viable alternatives to enhance India’s energy security must be explored,” he said.

The consortium of Indian public sector companies, ONGC Videsh, Oil India and India Oil Corporation, had discovered gas in the Farzad-B block in Iran in 2008 and subsequently, prepared a field development plan to recover about 12.8 trillion cubic feet of gas. However, according to Assocham, the plan had to be abandoned following sanctions on Iran. India has already spent $90 million on exploration.

The SAGE pipeline, also called Middle East to India Deepwater Pipeline (MEIDP) project, would start from Chabahar on the southern coast of Iran and Ra’s Al Jifan on the Oman coast. The pipeline, which would run deep in the Arabian Sea, would bring gas to Porbandar in South Gujarat.

The Pak-Iran trade saw considerable progress from 2006-07 to 2008-09 in which bilateral trade rose to an unprecedented level of $1,321.32 million from $573.76 million.

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