People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 23

June 22 , 2008



Indo-Iranian Gas Pipeline: Concretise Immediately

THE proponents of the India-US nuclear deal have been crying hoarse that the deal is essential to augment India's energy security. Apart from our counter arguments on this score, analysed in these columns repeatedly on earlier occasions, if this concern for our energy security is so paramount, why is the Indo-Iranian gas pipeline not seeing the light of the day?

One cannot escape the obvious connection between the India-US nuclear deal and the reluctance to proceed and concretise this gas pipeline which is widely accepted to be both economical as well as important to augment our energy requirements. The 123 agreement is deeply anchored in the US Hyde Act, which on three occasions mentions specifically that the USA expects India to toe its line vis a vis Iran. The Hyde Act also expects India to follow a foreign policy that is “congruent” with US policy. Under these circumstances, if the UPA government wishes to negate this perception that it is succumbing to US pressures then the external affairs minister's scheduled visit to Tehran on July 29-30 to attend the India-Iran Joint Commission meeting must be utilised as the opportunity to clinch this pipeline.

During his visit to India in April, the Iranian president had set a 45-day deadline for India, Pakistan and Iran to resolve the existing differences concerning this $7.4 billion gas pipeline. This deadline has since expired. During this period, India has held no talks with Iran on the safety and security of this 2700 km pipeline. Another vexed issue is that of the transit fee dispute with Pakistan. India also wishes to cut down risks involved in the transit of gas through Pakistan by insisting that Iran handover gas to India at the Indo-Pak border and not at the Iran-Pakistan border as Iran suggested. In any event all these issues can only be resolved in either bilateral or trilateral interactions.

India, however, has been boycotting the pipeline talks since August 2007 over Pakistan's transit fee demand. Pakistan is demanding a fee that is nearly three times more than what India is willing to pay. Although it was decided that the oil ministers of the three countries would meet to resolve the issues concerned, no progress has been made till date.

During the course of the debate on the India-US nuclear deal both in parliament and outside, the UPA government has been repeatedly asserting that it shall not allow any dilution of India's independent foreign policy. It was also asserted that India shall never succumb to pressures from the US in its dealings with other countries. India and Iran have centuries old relationship and in modern times have enjoyed cordial relations. When it is universally accepted that this gas pipeline from Iran is one of the best options for our energy security, then not proceeding with this or showing reluctance to conclude this deal at the earliest naturally raises the suspicion that this is happening under US pressure. It is well known that US imperialism is targeting Iran and imposing sanctions seeking to replicate the pattern that it used against Iraq. India can never be a party to such US imperialism's hegemonic strategies.

In the light of this it is absolutely imperative that India's external affairs minister in his forthcoming visit to Tehran must immediately take up this issue and resolve the outstanding concerns with Iran. Simultaneously, talks with Pakistan must also be initiated to resolve the transit fee dispute. This is of utmost importance for India's energy security at the cheapest available option.