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Rangoon proposes a committee meeting regarding tri-nation gas pipeline to be held in Dhaka on April 20-21

From Narinjara News, Bangladesh
April 4, 2005
link to this article.

Burma has proposed that Bangladesh hold a tri-nation committee meeting concerning the Burma-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline in Dhaka on April 20-21, reported a Bangladesh news agency.

The meeting is intended to lead to the signing of a deal enabling the construction of a gas pipeline that would cross from Burma's Arakan state through Bangladeshi territory to India's west Bengal state of Calcutta.

The head of the Burma Energy Planning Department put forward the proposal in a recent letter to the Chairman of Petrobangla, the Bangladesh state-owned hydrocarbon agency.

But Bangladesh has not yet given any reply to Burma regarding the proposed committee meeting, as Bangladeshi authorities have not reached any decision regarding this matter, Bangladesh Energy Ministry sources said.

According to some sources in Bangladesh, Bangladesh will not be in a position to sign any agreement on the gas pipeline until India permits Bangladesh to use its soil as a business corridor.

Bangladesh wants to use Indian territory as a business corridor in order to achieve three aims. These are to facilitate Bangladeshi export of goods to Nepal and Bhutan, to import electricity from these nations to Bangladesh through Indian soil, and finally to reduce the huge trade imbalance between Bangladesh and India.

The Indian Energy Minister initially agreed to accept these three conditions proposed by Bangladesh at the first technical-committee meeting in Rangoon on 24 February. However, it is now clear that these conditions are not being met in reality, as the Indian Foreign Ministry appears to be against agreeing to any such conditions in the signing of a deal on the pipeline.

Since February, a further tri-state meeting on the pipeline has been repeatedly postponed, despite the fact that the timeline agreed at the January 24 meeting in Rangoon scheduled a meeting to be held on March 24 2005.

Burma has now again proposed for a meeting to be held in Dhaka. However the future of the meeting remains uncertain as Bangladesh now does not appear keen to participate.

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