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Deora to visit Pakistan; TAPI pipeline key agenda

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
April 14, 2008 22:58 IST
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Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora will be travelling to Islamabad next week for vital discussions on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.

The meeting would be held on April 23 and 24, which will be followed up with bilateral talks with the Pakistani authorities.

Speaking at the fifth Asia Gas partnership Summit organized by FICCI, the minister said: "There are some issues such as the charges to be levied by Pakistan for transit fees, but I am optimistic that we would be able to resolve them."

A technical team from India will leave for Islamabad on Tuesday to lay the groundwork for the discussions on the pipeline, he added.

Even as Deora announced his trip to Pakistan in New Delhi, reports from Beijing said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had proposed building an oil and gas pipeline to China during his talks with Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

The China Daily newspaper said on Monday quoting Musharraf that a pipeline would significantly shorten the route of China's energy supplies from the Gulf. Oil and gas are currently being shipped to China along the Indian coast and through the Malacca Straits.
He added that a railway along the Karakoram Highway, linking China and Pakistan, should also be built.

'If we can supplement this (the Karakoram Highway) with a rail link, and also maybe an oil and gas pipeline link; and then you take the Central Asian republics with that, the whole area will open out through Pakistan to the rest of the world,' the newspaper quoted Musharraf as saying.

China Daily said China currently imported over 40 per cent of its oil. Experts predict that annual oil consumption will reach 390-410 million metric tons by 2010, and by 2030 it is expected to almost double, to 620-650 million. Demand for gas in China is expected to reach 80-100 billion cu m by 2010 and 320-280 billion cu m in 2030.

In view of India and China's ever-growing demand for gas and Oil, Deora, in his address, pointed out that Asian countries have natural areas of commonalities and synergy in social, economic and technological spheres.

A multifaceted economic partnership will underpin more securely our traditionally close relationships, he said, adding that India, on its part, is ready to play sheet anchor role in this endeavour.

U D Choubey, chairman & managing director, GAIL (India) Limited, proposed  the formation of a Gas Cooperation Forum of Asian countries, which could ultimately give shape to an Asian Federation as role of governments becomes paramount in cross-border natural gas projects.

The basis of cooperation could be in trade, investment, technology transfer and Research and development, he said, adding that Asia accounts for 70 per cent of the total LNG trade.

Meanwhile, Deora's visit assumes importance in view of Musharraf's proposals to China and China's quest for shorter, safer and commercially viable routes for importing gas and oil.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi