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Dhaka stays cool to India's new idea about gas pipeline

From Xinhua, China
July 3, 2005
link to this article.

Dhaka will not mind if New Delhi decides to exclude Bangladesh from the proposed overland gas pipeline between India and Myanmar, said a senior Bangladeshi official.

The Financial Express Sunday quoted Mahmudur Rahman, adviser tothe Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources as saying that Bangladesh will welcome new plan on the proposed tri-nation gas line project that might bypass Bangladesh to safeguard India's strategic interests.

India, however, is yet to inform Bangladesh about its change ofmind, Rahman noted.

A Gas Authority of India (GAIL) official disclosed last Thursday that India is seriously considering a proposal to redesign the gas pipeline so that it runs entirely through Indian territory skipping Bangladesh altogether.

According to the new scheme, the pipeline will enter India through the northeastern parts of India.

In January this year, it was announced that the pipeline would run through Arakan state in Myanmar and the Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura before crossing Bangladesh to reach India's West Bengal capital Kolkata.

Experts here, however, expressed their strong reservations about the new Indian plan, if there is any. They said it would be an almost impossible task to build a gas pipeline through the difficult terrain of the northeastern region of India.

They maintained that the so-called new plan was a "ploy" to create pressure on Bangladesh that had tagged a number of bilateral issues with the proposed pipeline.

The tri-nation pipeline project was initiated by the country's private Mohona Holdings Limited in 1997. The governments of India and Myanmar have already approved the Mohona's proposal for the cross-border pipeline. But Bangladesh is yet to approve the proposal. Bangladesh has been pressing India for a corridor to conduct trade with Nepal and the permission to use its land for bringing in hydro power from Bhutan and Nepal as the price for allowing the pipeline to run through its territory.

Dhaka is also demanding removal of existing trade barriers between India and Bangladesh.

Such demands, according to the Indian officials, are reasons for the proposed realignment of the tri-nation pipeline.

The length of the pipeline as per original plan will be 900 kilometers long. But if India decides to bypass Bangladesh, the pipeline will be 500 km longer.

The proposed pipeline was one of several options India has beenconsidering to bring gas reserves from the Shwe Field's Bloc A-1 site in Myanmar. India's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporationhas a 20 percent stake in Myanmar's A-1 and A-3 blocks, while GAILhas a 10 percent stake in the two sites.

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