TEHRAN: After being “dropped” from a key rail project in southeastern Iran along the border with Afghanistan, India is also set to lose an ambitious gas field project in the country that had been in the pipeline for past 10 years.

Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency quoted India’s External Affairs Ministry (EAM) as saying on Thursday Tehran would develop the Farzad-B gas field in the Persian Gulf region “on its own” and might engage India “appropriately at a later stage”.

Last week, Masoud Karbasian, managing director of National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), told reporters that a new operator had been roped in to develop the gas field, replacing India’s ONGC.

The field, estimated to possess 21.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, 12.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 212 million barrels of gas condensates, was discovered in 2008 by a consortium of three Indian companies — ONGC, Oil India Limited and Indian Oil Corporation.

According to the deal, the Indian side was supposed to develop the field but they abruptly stopped work in 2012, following the intensification of sanctions against Iran.

After sanctions were eased in 2015 following the signing of a nuclear deal between Iran and western countries, India showed its willingness to return to the project.

However, things again fell apart amid the reinstatement of US sanctions on Iran in May 2018, which further “discouraged” India from making headway in the project, said sources familiar with the issue who requested not to be named.

“By May 2018, the two sides had made tremendous progress and agreed on key details of the project,” they said. “However, the US sanctions played the spoilsport.”

India’s loss of the project marks a big setback for relations between the two countries, Tehran-based analysts, who asked to remain anonymous, told Anadolu Agency, as the Farzad-B gas field and Chabahar port were two largest bilateral accomplishments between the two sides.

Earlier reports claimed that Iran had dropped India from a rail project after the Indian side showed reluctance to start work due to US sanctions.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2020