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Burma-India talks prefer Bangladesh's inclusion on gas pipeline

Siddique Islam
From Mizzima News
13/ 07/ 2005
www.mizzima.com to this article.

Dhaka, Thursday, July 07, 2005:
New Delhi will continue its efforts to sort out issues with Bangladesh to facilitate the laying of proposed tri-nation gas pipeline from Burma to India through Bangladesh.

The decision came at the Indo-Burma ministerial level meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday, according to a message received in Dhaka on Thursday from New Delhi.

During the meeting, Indian Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Mani Shankar Aiyar had wide ranging discussions with his counterpart his Burmese Minister Brig Lun Thi on enhancing cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector.

Bangladesh stayed away from the New Delhi meeting due to time constraint as the invitation from the Indian side came too late.

However, Dhaka wants Delhi 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 Rangoon took the initiative to find a viable alternative to lay the gas pipeline directly between the two countries excluding Bangladesh.

According to the Press Information Bureau of India, the two sides discussed evacuation of gas from Burma (Myanmar) through the Burma-Bangladesh-India pipeline and other alternatives to access natural gas resources for Indian market.

Both sides agreed that the best way of gas evacuation from Burma to India would be through the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline project.

"However, there has been some delay in taking further action on this initiative due to some outstanding bilateral issues between India and Bangladesh," the Press Information Bureau said in its release.

It added that the Indian government would continue to sort out the issue with Bangladesh about the three points tagged with the $1 billion tri-national gas pipeline initiative. Besides, New Delhi and Rangoon have formed a techno-commercialcommittee to examine the possibility of laying a pipeline from Burma to India bypassing Bangladesh.The joint group will also explore the possibilities of importing gas by ship in its liquefied (LNG) or compressed (CNG) state, Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said after the talks with his counterpart in New Delhi.

They have also assigned Italian Snam Progetti for a feasibility study for taking gas from Burma to India without using Bangladesh territory, sources in Dhaka said.

"The two sides formed a new techno-commercial committee although one such committee comprising officials and experts from Burma, Bangladesh and India has been working on the project," said an official in Dhaka.

The (first) committee was formed after energy ministers of the three countries held a meeting in Rangoon in January and issued a joint statement agreeing in principle to the 900-kilometre pipeline project.

Industry sources said that India is now trying to bypass Bangladesh from the project as New Delhi is not willing to give into Dhaka's conditions for allowing right of way for the cross-border pipeline over the territory of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh later formed an inter-ministerial committee to present a concrete proposal on its conditions. "But, before it was handed over to India, New Delhi and Rangoon apparently opted for the option to exclude Bangladesh," said the official.

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