Myanmar pipeline back on track after Bangla nod

Dhaka, July 31 | Updated: Aug 1 2005, 06:54am hrs
The over $2.5-billion Myanmar-India gas pipeline project via Bangladesh seems to be back on track with the Bangladesh government open to holding fresh negotiations on the three conditions set by it for signing the tri-nation agreement for implementing the project.

According to Mahmudur Rahman, advisor to Bangladeshs energy and mineral division, We are open to negotiations on the three issues and are not saying that all of these should be agreed to by India. But for anything substantive, negotiations must begin.

Mr Rahmans comments assume significance and come just a week before the visit of the Indian external affairs minister, Natwar Singh, to Dhaka from August 6 to hold bilateral talks on a host of important issues, including the pipeline project. The energy and trade corridor issue will also figure during these talks, a senior Indian High Commission official said.

The three conditions laid down by Dhaka include provision of transit facility through India to facilitate transmission of hydro-electricity from Nepal and Bhutan to Bangladesh, assured utilisation of the corridor for trading between Bangladesh and Nepal/ Bhutan through Indian territory and initiation of measures to reduce the $2 billion trade imbalance between Bangladesh and India.

The proposed pipeline via Bangladesh will transport gas from the Shwe (offshore gas source) to Arakan (Rakhine) State in Myanmar into the Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura before crossing Bangladesh to reach Kolkata.