NEW DELHI, March 10: As Indian officials braced to participate in next week’s crucial tripartite meeting with Iran and Pakistan to specifically discuss the price of gas that Tehran would supply, India’s leftist parties on Thursday expressed the fear that New Delhi may have deliberately sabotaged any prospects of a deal.

The Communist party of India (Marxist, CPI-M) warned in a statement that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s UPA government had already harmed India’s traditional friendship with Iran by its “capitulation” to the United States at the IAEA votes in September and February.

“Thanks to the capitulation to the US pressure by the UPA government, India stands with the bellicose, illegal stand of the Bush administration. This is against our vital interests,” the CPI-M’s politburo said in a strong statement. “The US has clarified it is still opposed to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. We have deliberately spoilt relations with Iran jeopardising much-needed energy supplies. Our independent foreign policy has been compromised. The consequences of this stand will be serious.”

India’s Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan, who will lead his delegation at the tripartite official-level meeting in Tehran from March 13 to 15, said: “We will discuss gas pricing, project structure and the tripartite government-to-government framework agreement.”

So far, discussions have been held on various technical, commercial, financial, legal and other project-related issues by two separate secretary-level bilateral joint working groups (JWGs) with Pakistan and Iran.

“This is the first time we will be discussing the price of gas,” Mr Srinivasan said.

A tripartite meeting of the technical teams from the three countries was held in New Delhi in January to discuss various parameters of the project.

As the domestic availability of gas is not adequate to meet the country’s demand, India has been pursuing import of gas, both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and through transnational pipelines from Iran, Turkmenistan and Myanmar.

The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project envisages a line of about 20,000-km length from Assaluyeh in Iran to the Pakistan-India border.

Updated Mar 11, 2006 12:00am

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