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Truly a pipe dream


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THIS is odd, if not outright bizarre — Pakistan, Afghanistan and India talking about the pricing formula of a unit of Turkmen gas to be conveyed by a pipeline across war-torn Afghanistan. Impressive was the seriousness with which delegates from the three countries discussed the issue in Islamabad. Afghanistan will charge Pakistan and India for hosting the pipeline across its mountainous mass, while Islamabad will in turn ask New Delhi to pay it a like amount. There was no agreement during the two-day negotiations that concluded on Tuesday. The three parties are to meet again at a date not yet specified, and if they fail to agree on a formula, the Asian Development Bank will play mediator. Assuming that the three sides will develop a consensus at their next meeting or, failing that, the ADB’s good offices will clinch a deal in Ashgabat next month, some pertinent questions deserve to be asked: is peace around the corner in Afghanistan? Will the American withdrawal by 2014 — unlikely to be total — be followed by a lasting peace? Will gas start flowing through the TAPI pipeline by December 2016 as hoped for? If all this is in the realm of uncertainty, doesn’t common sense suggest opting for the relatively hassle-free and terrain-wise easy Iran pipeline?

India’s stand on the TAPI project defies logic, if we consider its stance on the other pipeline. New Delhi used to complain — before it buckled under American pressure and ditched the three-state project — that it was worried about the security of supply from Pakistan. Do not the same security concerns apply to the TAPI pipeline? While the TAPI project is dependent upon the chimera that is peace in Afghanistan, an IPI pipeline can become a reality in a short time, because Tehran has already laid the pipeline across Iranian territory. If India reconsiders its decision to renege on the IPI project, gas can start flowing from Iran to India via Pakistan in a relatively short time. Pakistan, our eastern neighbour must accept, will be there in any case, whether India opts for TAPI or IPI or for both.

Comments (7) Closed

Jaihoon Apr 19, 2012 08:47am
Baluchistan situation seems to be worse than Afghanistan, and Iranian gas pipeline is more of a pipe dream than Afghanistan.
malik100 Apr 19, 2012 10:32am
The solution to India and Pakistan's gas problem is to find own gas. If the US can be a net exporter of gas producing around 65 bcft a day from an importer couple of years ago why cannot we do that. Both the Iran and Turkemenistan gas are too expensive, 70% of crude, and our poor people cannot afford it anyway.
krishnan Apr 19, 2012 11:46am
And as if Pakistan will withstand US pressure to drop it. Additionally, I think India has a issue on price with Iran- India is managing to circumvent US sanctions anyway .
Carlos Apr 19, 2012 02:50pm
There can be no cooperation between Ind-Pak in the foreseeable future. Politicians from both sides are hoodwinking their people.
M. Asghar Apr 19, 2012 03:12pm
Keeping in view the existing geopolitic situation in the region, the only parctical solution for Pakistan's stifling energy problem is the IP pipe line. and here, US must not be allowed to mess with the things for their geo-strategic reasons..
Gopal Apr 19, 2012 07:41pm
You forget that pricing is a major issue. Iran wants to charge a very high price by coupling the price of gas to the price of oil. The world has lots of gas but much less oil. So, the Iranian stance makes no sense. Pakistan too wants to charge a price many times more than what other pipelines all over the world charge. Clearly, both Pakistan and Iran are stuck in a win-lose mindset. They are welcome to trade with each other!
Satyameva Jayate Apr 19, 2012 07:52pm
It is not a diplomatic but a BUSINESS proposal. If Pakistan wants it can make TAPI Pipeline into TAP Pipedream!