NEW DELHI, Feb 18 (PTI): Sending a strong message of commitment to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to have favoured the three nations building the over 7 billion dollar pipeline together.
Singh, who spelled India's commitment to the 2,100-km-long pipeline in a statement to the Parliament, cancelled prior appointments for meeting the visiting Pakistani Oil Minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon and termed the project as "pipeline for peace, progress and friendship" of the three nations, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora told reporters here.
On his part, Jadoon, who was here to discuss common approach to be adopted by India and Pakistan in negotiating gas price with Iran and deliberate on the project structure, said, "we need energy (and) we are very very very serious about the project."
In identical suo motu statements in both Houses of Parliament, the Prime Minister said "we are committed to the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. The economics of this project is currently under professional investigation by internationally-reputed consultants. This is a necessary step in taking the pipeline project forward."
A top official said Singh in his meeting with Jadoon favoured the three nations forming a consortium for building and operating the pipeline, a departure from New Delhi's stated position of buying gas at its border.
The Petroleum Ministry had earlier suggested that India enter into an agreement only with Iran for purchase of gas at its border and let Tehran and Islamabad build stretches of pipelines in their territory.
The Joint Press Statement released after the two-hour-long deliberations between Deora and Jadoon, said "the two ministers agreed that the IPI project was important to both countries in respect of their energy security interests and reiterated the desire of the two countries to accelerate the process of dialogue and consultation to realise the project in the shortest possible time."
Jadoon evaded a direct reply when asked about the reported statement of Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff that Islamabad would give up on the project if the US was to accord it the same nuclear deal as India.
Referring to Prime Minister Singh's commitment in New York last year that the pipeline project faced financial risk, Deora said "the Prime Minister did not say funding will be any problem. I don't think there will be any problem on that front as there are international institutions ready to finance the project."
Earlier report adds: India, Pakistan and Iran will hold their first three-way meeting next month on a planned multi-billion-dollar pipeline to bring natural gas from Iran across Pakistan, a report said yesterday.
Until now, meetings on the ambitious seven-billion-dollar project have been conducted at the bilateral level.
The announcement came after India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reaffirmed the intention of India, which is a massively dependent on fuel imports, to pursue construction of the pipeline.
The ministerial discussions on the pipeline between India and Pakistan in New Delhi focused on evolving a joint strategy for negotiating a gas price with Iran and a project structure.