Iran on Tuesday gave India a four-month deadline to formally agree its participation in a multi-bln dollar project to transport Iranian gas to India via Pakistan. The warning came after Iran and Pakistan on Saturday finalized the content of the 7.4-bln-dollar gas export deal – originally a tripartite project – which is scheduled to be signed within a month.
“I don’t think we would wait for them (India) more than three or four months,” the managing director of National Iranian Gas Exports Company, Nosratollah Seifi, told reporters.
However, he expressed hope that New Delhi would still join the much-delayed project, under which energy-poor India would receive 30 mln cubic meters (one bln cubic feet) per day of Iranian gas.
“I think India will join the gas exports project because of its extreme and immediate need for energy,” he said.
Seifi said the delay by India, an increasingly important US ally, was due to both energy and political issues.
“They have domestic issues and we understand this. They think about whether to use nuclear energy… there are also foreign pressures.”
In New Delhi, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said India remained interested in a deal.
“Before the next tripartite meeting, a bilateral meeting between India and Pakistan is necessary to decide on transportation tariff, transit fees, etcetera and a common stand on the price revision clause proposed by Iran,” he told a media conference.
“We are finalizing the dates for such a meeting.”
Talks on the project to supply gas to India via Pakistan and Pakistan itself through a 2,600-kilometre (1,615-mile) pipeline began in 1994 but were stalled by tensions between India and Pakistan.
An early October agreement between Iran and Pakistan marked a breakthrough when they agreed to a periodic revision of gas prices every three years instead of a long-term fixed price.
India has come under US pressure to pull out of the project, as part of Washington’s drive to sanction Iran for its refusal to bow to West’s demands to suspend its civilian nuclear activities.
Iran has insisted it is determined to push ahead with the gas plan but a major sticking point has been over how much New Delhi should pay Pakistan in transit fees.
“We do not have any insistence that India definitely joins us … but we are waiting for them to overcome their domestic problems,” Seifi said.