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India presses for undersea Iran gas plan

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This map shows the hypothetical route of a pipeline transferring Iranian gas to India and Oman.

Three major Indian gas buyers will be visiting Iran early next month to discuss a long-proposed undersea pipeline which New Delhi sees as an alternative to a similar project via Pakistan, a press report says. 

Executives of Gail and Indian Oil Ltd (IOL) will meet Iranian officials to discuss the price of gas to be used in the pipeline which has to pass through the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea, the Economic Times reported Monday.

The proposed pipeline estimated to cost $4.5 billion would bypass Pakistan and transport up to 31 million cubic meters of gas per day, the New Delhi-based daily said.

The Economic Times, citing persons familiar with the project, said India might also use the 1,400 km-pipeline for imports of gas from Turkmenistan.

Under the plan, gas from the Central Asian country would be transferred to Iran which would deliver the same amount to India under a swap deal, it added.   

The paper said Oman might join the pipeline at a later stage, making it a trilateral initiative given its geopolitical proximity both to India and Iran.

Iran and Oman have already signed a deal to build an undersea pipeline to ship 20 million cubic meters per day of gas to the sultanate for a period of 25 years. The deal worth $60 billion also includes turning Iranian gas to LNG for exports.

Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi said last week that studies on the pipeline would conclude in the next six months.

Energy-hungry India is already committed to the TAPI pipeline -- a project worth $10 billion which is expected to be completed by December 2019 and pump natural gas from Turkmenistan to south Asia.

Some Iranian officials have poured cold water on India’s proposal for the undersea pipeline, saying it was a complicated project.

Iran instead is touting a pipeline through Pakistan. The country finished the 900 km length of the pipeline on its territory in 2013, pending Pakistan’s completion of its section for the gas flow to begin.

India dropped out of the $7 billion gas project, initially dubbed as the Peace Pipeline.

For years, both India and Pakistan have dragged their feet on plans to import gas from Iran but the lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic in January has revived interest in the project.

The US is opposed to the Iran gas plan and is pressing India and Pakistan to consider other options.

Iran sits atop the world’s largest gas reserves which constitute more than 18% of the global deposits.  


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