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Iran-India Gas Pipeline – Which Route India will Opt for?

India which is in a midst of becoming a world power and already a regional superpower in South Asia will have to fasten up its gears to secure the energy deals with Gulf countries especially with Iran. Since 2009, India has been trying to bolster Indo-Iranian Energy Cooperation but still India is miles away from the supply of natural gas from Iran due to complex geo-political scenario. At the one hand, the proposed pipeline Iran-Pakistan-India still stuck mainly due to the rivalry between India and Pakistan, makes it even more prolonging idea. Iran which is in dire need of funds and after the positive outcome from Iran and 5P+1 nations on nuclear deal, it wants to speed up this long derailed projects with both the countries. India and Pakistan both are energy starving nations and looking for alternative supplies of natural gas.

The IPI gas pipeline would consist total of 2700 km area. 1100 km in Iran, 1000 km in Pakistan and if extended to India further 600 km in Indian Territory.

The Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline route started in 1995 and the same year Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI), if implemented it would have delivered 31 million cubic meter per day gas supply to India. But in 2009, India left this projected under US pressure after Indo-US Nuclear Deal 2008. It is also said that India was not much enthusiastic about this proposed route considering the constrained Indo-Pak  . However, the changed scenario after the nuclear deal between Permanent Security Council Members+ Germany and Iran has provided a new hope among the stakeholders of this project at least to Pakistan. However, India has refrained from taking serious participation in this project due to increasing China’s involvement in this project- China has provided $2 billion in financing for the IP pipeline’s construction. China is investing heavily in Pakistan and ongoing $46 billion megaproject China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will certainly boost the Pakistan economy. Under this project, Gwadar Port of south-western Pakistan and north-western autonomous region of Xinjiang in China will be connected. It is in China’s interest to invest in IP pipeline because once the link is established they can stretch it to Xinxiang where the energy requirement is high but supply is minimal. Currently, the surmounting tensions between India and Pakistan makes it more complicated and it seems that IPI pipeline project may remain in the ‘pipeline’.

Similarly, the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline which involves Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) has also been delayed even when it is financed by Asian Development Bank. This project was also firstly coined in 1995 after Pakistani and Turkmenistan governments agreed for the pipeline. It is expected that the physical work would start in Dec, 2015. But this is a hard fact that every good intended development project in South Asia is derailed by rivalry and animosity among the countries. Even if this project is completed by 2020 as once former Afghani President Hamid Karzai indicated, India is concerned about the problematic areas of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. What if these pipelines become an easy target of Taliban or other terrorist organizations working in both the countries? The success of this project depends upon the cooperation among stakeholders especially between India and Pakistan.

What other options India have?

 1.1 billion cubic feet per day of gas will be transported through pipeline from Chabbar port in Iran and Ra’s al Jifan  in Oman to finally Porbandar in Gujarat.
Last month, ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers Of Commerce and Industry of India) suggested that India should look beyond the two discussed pipeline routes and focus more on the available viable options. The indication was on the Iran-Oman-India undersea pipeline. This new route has been proposed by South Asia Gas Enterprises Pvt (SAGE) which will also bypass Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. According to SAGE, this project would cost a total sum of $4.5 billion. The SAGE Pipeline or Middle East to India Deep-water Pipeline project (MEID) now holds a great significance for India and if it would be implemented on time then India will be able to fulfil its huge requirements of energy demands consistently.

As both TAPI and IPI pipelines it doesn’t seem to materialize in near future, this alternative route-option looks a viable alternative considering the security risks attached to the other projects.

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