Bangladesh wants several assurances from India before it can let the proposed Indo-Myanmar gas pipeline pass through its territory. This development is forcing India to look at other options of bringing in natural gas from Myanmar.
Officials told Business Standard on Tuesday that Bangladesh wanted an assurance from India on trade, transit of goods and power supply from Nepal and Bhutan to be included in a trilateral memorandum of understanding between India, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh leadership wants to build a favourable public opinion for the MoU by addressing issues of direct interest to the country through it. The anti-India opinion within Bangladesh had earlier come in the way of gas from that country finding its way into India.
The ministry of petroleum and natural gas, which is spearheading the diplomatic dialogue on the pipeline question, may not be able to make any commitment to Bangladesh, as the issues of transit, trade and power are not within its purview.
Officials told Business Standard that the Bangladesh leadership finds it difficult to take the political risk of entering into the MoU on the eve of elections to be held next year.
India has the option of getting the gas from Myanmar directly to West Bengal by routing the pipeline through Tripura. It can enter West Bengal through Siliguri. But officials said the pipeline length would more than double, to about 1,500 km.
The other option was to convert the gas into liquid and receive it at Paradeep. The deep-sea option was not considered very feasible as there was a turf in the Bay of Bengal sea bed which required the pipeline to be circuited around it.
"Besides, deep-sea technology for long distances is to be fully tested," said an official.
The three bilateral issues were identified by a committee of nine secretaries set up by the Bangladesh government for examining the India-Bangladesh-Myanmar pipeline.
"With the political environment charged, the Bangladesh government wanted to show that it has done something for the country," said an official.
India allows Nepal-bound Bangladesh traffic for a few hours. But officials said there was not enough traffic to justify increasing the number of hours.
The Indian government also cannot do much about the favourable trade balance it enjoys with Bangladesh since it is not willing to sell natural gas to India, which may help in tackling the issue to a large extent.
Officials said an assurance on power supply from Bhutan and Nepal to Bangladesh could not be made part of the trilateral MoU since it concerned two other countries which were not party to the document.
Another round of discussions were likely to take place after inter-ministerial discussions take place here.
Bangladesh wants an assurance from India on trade, transit and power supply from Nepal and Bhutan to be included in the trilateral memorandum of understanding
Bangladesh leadership wants to build a favourable public opinion for the MoU by addressing issues of direct interest to the country through it
- India has also the option of getting the gas from Mynamar directly to West Bengal by routing the pipeline through Tripura