ISLAMABAD, July 22: The Indian move to play up risks pertaining to Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline plan is meant to dictate terms for the implementation of the project and seek subsidized prices of gas. A petroleum ministry official told Dawn on Friday that India wanted a three-nation ownership of the 2,670km pipeline and the price at which Iran was providing gas to its citizens.

The official said this in a reaction to a statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington in which the Indian leader expressed scepticism about the pipeline saying that the project was fraught with risks and that he did not know if any international consortium of bankers would underwrite it.

He said the Indian government gave similar impressions through media when a high-level Pakistani delegation was in New Delhi early this month as part of the joint working group on the pipeline.

He said the Indian attitude also raised apprehensions in Iran, raising questions whether New Delhi was really interested in the project or wanted to get favourable gas prices before its execution.

He said India believed that gas prices offered by Iran were on the higher side and had asked Iran to sell gas at the rate which was being paid by the Iranian nationals. Obviously, he added, Iran was not willing to offer subsidized domestic rates to India.

Secondly, the official said, India had proposed that since international consortium might not be available for the project, the gas authorities of the three countries should develop the pipeline through a joint venture which should also have ownership rights of the pipeline.

He said the proposal was not practicable, adding that it was not only the pipeline but also the land and other things in each country whose proprietary rights could not be given to a third country.

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