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Aiyar willing to visit Dhaka next month

Shahnaj Begum
From The Independent, Bangladesh
July 19, 2005
link to this article.

Indian Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has expressed his willingness to visit Bangladesh next month, a high official of the Indian High Commission yesterday informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Aiyar made a request to the energy adviser to fix a suitable date next month for the visit and send a letter to the Foreign Ministry of India, according to sources at the Foreign office in Dhaka.

India is likely to continue its efforts to resolve issues with Bangladesh to facilitate the laying of gas pipeline from Myanmar to India via Bangladesh.

Last month the Myanmar Energy Minister visited New Delhi. The two sides discussed matters related to the proposed gas pipeline from Myanmar through Bangladesh and other alternatives to supply natural gas for Indian market. At the end of a day-long ministerial level meeting, agreed minutes were signed by the two sides. A technical committee was also formed to look into the matter and asked to meet by the end of the month to exchange views in this regard.

The Press Information Bureau of the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in a press release yesterday said that the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Mani Shankar Aiyar had wide ranging discussions with his counterpart from Myanmar Brigadier General Lun Thi on enhancing cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector.

Aiyar told journalists that the possibility of taking the pipeline from Myanmar into Mizoram and onwards to Assam ending in West Bengal, a distance of 1400 km, would also be explored. This route is roughly double the length of the pipeline should it travel through Bangladesh.

India and Myanmar have been working to boost their relations and establish cooperation on a wide range of economic and development issues, including roads, railways and energy.

The Myanmar minister said their estimates showed that the A1 block had about 9 trillion cubic feet of gas which might yield about seven million tonnes of LNG annually. He felt that India needed to take an early view on purchasing this LNG. India will be extending a credit of $20 millions to Myanmar for upgrading the Thanlyin refinery, according to the minutes of the meeting signed by the two sides.

UNB adds: Bangladesh did not participate in the New Delhi meeting as the invitation from the Indian side reportedly came too late. Moreover, Bangladesh wants India to first address the issues of trade imbalance, providing corridor for Nepalese goods to Bangladeshi ports and access to hydroelectric potential in Bhutan.

Since there has not been any progress in resolving the issues between India and Bangladesh, New Delhi and Yangoon took the initiative to find any viable alternative to lay the gas pipeline directly between the two countries excluding Bangladesh. Both sides agreed that the best alternative of gas supply from Myanmar to India would be through Myanmar-Bangladesh-India pipeline.

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