IPI pipeline project to top Pranabs Iran visit agenda

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi, Oct 30 | Updated: Nov 1 2008, 04:53am hrs
The India-Pakistan-Iran (IPI) pipeline will be topping the agenda of external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Iran from Friday.

During his three-day visit to the country, Mukherjee apart from co-chairing the India-Iran Joint Commission meeting with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki on Saturday will also call on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and meet Saeed Jalili, chief secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and the country's chief nuclear negotiator.

Both sides will also discuss various other initiatives, particularly in the trade and business field, to enhance the bilateral ties.

With the civil nuclear deal sealed with the US three weeks ago, India is now keen to give a push to the $7.5 billion gas pipeline that involves bringing the Iranian gas via Pakistan to India. The two sides are expected to discuss a way forward in the proposed $ 7.4 billion India-Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline which is failing to take off due to differences over pricing and concerns over security.

Infact, the talks between India and Iran have been stalling since August 2007 over transit fee demanded by Pakistan for passage of gas through that country.

Ahmedinejad, who held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this year had claimed that the two sides had decided to address the issue in 45 days. Apart from the transit fees, security of the pipeline is another issue that will be discussed between the leaders in Tehran.

With the Iran issue and the India-US nuclear deal likely to be talking points in elections likely next year, Mukherjee is expected to use the Tehran visit as further proof of the government's independent foreign policy that seeks to deepen ties not just with the US and other major powers but with other friendly countries as well.