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Meet in Rangoon to discuss tri-nation gas pipeline project

Siddique Islam
From Mizzima News
13/ 07/ 2005!, to this article.

Dhaka, Monday, July 12, 2005:
Energy officials from Burma, India and Bangladesh will meet later this month to iron out differences between New Delhi and Dhaka over the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline project. A techno-commercial working committee made up of officials from the three countries engaged in negotiations on the pipeline from Burma to India through Bangladesh will sit across the table in the second meeting in Rangoon this month, a Burmese newspaper reported on Monday.

The US $ one billion project, initiated by Bangladesh's Mohona Holdings Limited, envisages a pipeline that will carry gas from a newly developed gas field off the Burmese western Rakhine coast through Bangladesh to Kolkata in West Bengal, India.

Ruling out other options for the tri-nation pipeline, the techno-commercial working committee in the first meeting also decided that a loop line will be set up from Bangladesh's Brahmanbaria to Tripura for supplying gas to the Indian state from the main pipeline. In providing the right of way for the pipeline, Dhaka has proposed reduction of its huge trade imbalance with Delhi and sanction of an Indian corridor for Bangladesh's bilateral trade with Bhutan and Nepal. It wants to bring electricity from the two Himalayan kingdoms. Some media reports said in view of Dhaka's demands, New Delhi was considering alternate routes for the gas pipeline so that it would directly enter Indian territory from Burma bypassing Bangladesh.

Speculation over India's intention to bypass Bangladesh got a fillip when the energy ministers of India and Burma held a meeting last week in New Delhi. Dhaka refrained from attending the meeting as it was invited at the eleventh hour.

However, the two energy ministers decided that India and Bangladesh should try to work out an agreement for the trilateral pipeline. Dhaka also thinks that the "abrupt" meeting would not hamper the project.

"The project had been initiated as a tri-partite project and it should proceed on that basis. Bypassing Bangladesh would not only double the cost of the project, but such an attitude would also jeopardize its future," a senior government official said in Dhaka Monday. He also said that they are yet to find out about the meeting scheduled to be held in Rangoon later this month.

"We don't think that the techno-commercial committee should meet now. The most important thing is how to proceed to sign the MOU (memorandum of understanding) while finding ways for fulfilling conditions laid down by Bangladesh," the official observed. The energy ministers of the three countries agreed in principle in Rangoon in January this year on the laying of the gas pipeline and formed the techno-commercial committee. The committee had its first meeting in February.


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