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New Delhi, Dec. 8

DISPELLING apprehensions about the proposed multi-billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, India on Thursday said that the project is going on the right track. A senior Petroleum Ministry official said that the three nations might reach an understanding on the project structure by February 2006.

"The Government of India is committed to energy security and sees the pipeline as a crucial element in securing that," the official said. Asked when was the first gas from the project expected, the official said that it is likely to start flowing from 2010, the official said.

For the next rounds of joint working group meetings, a delegation from Pakistan, led by its Petroleum Secretary, Mr Ahmad Waqar, will hold discussions on December 16-17. An Iranian team headed by its Deputy Minister for International Cooperation, Mr Nejad Hossenian, will be in Delhi on December 28-29 to discuss various issues.

Asked about the current status of the project, the official said, a technical, commercial, financial and legal framework, which would boost investor confidence in the project, is being formulated. He indicated that India would participate in the building and operation of the pipeline. The country's interest would be served by being part of the project.

Power, fertiliser and other projects worth over $20 billion are being planned to benefit from the project, he said. With such investments at stake, it was felt that India should be involved with the building and operation of the project. Once the project structure is finalised, the three countries would get the respective political approvals for entering into a tripartite framework agreement, he said. Then, a project consortium would be put in place for the operation of the project.

The 56-inch pipeline will have a capacity to carry 150 million standard cubic meters of natural gas. While India will get two-thirds of the gas, Pakistan will get the remaining one-third.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 9, 2005)
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