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Indian oil minister due next month-Talks with Dhaka to focus on tri-nation gas pipeline

Shahnaj Begum
From Bangladesh-web
August 24, 2005
link to this article.

The government will extend an invitation to Indian Petroleum Minister Moni Shankar Aiyar to visit Bangladesh between September 4 and 6 to finalise the three-nation gas pipeline project.(The Independent)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Energy and Mineral Resources Division received confirmation from New Delhi yesterday (Tuesday) about the fixing of fresh date for Aiyar's visit, which was originally scheduled to be held between August 27 and 28.

Sources said, after getting final nod from Bangladesh Foreign Minster M. Morshed Khan the Indian government finalised the fresh date of the meeting.

"A bilateral meeting will be held between Bangladesh and India for finalising some issues relating to the project", a top official of the Energy Ministry yesterday told The Independent preferring anonymity. He said that this bilateral meeting would be held before the proposed three-party meeting. "Before we settle the matter, Bangladesh wants to discuss some terms and conditions with its Indian counterpart," he added.

Indian press reported that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday discussed with oil and external affairs ministers Mani Shankar Aiyar and Natwar Singh, respectively, India's course for breaking the ice over the proposed $1 billion gas pipeline from Myanmar through Bangladesh.

The press also said that the Indian Prime Minister cleared, in principle, Aiyar's visit to Dhaka for talks to iron out the pros and cons of a trilateral MoU with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Official sources expressed optimism that the proposed visit would provide an opportunity to Adviser, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Mahmudur Rahman to discuss tri-nation gas pipeline project and other bilateral matters with the Indian minister, a highly placed source told The Independent yesterday.

In exchange of allowing its territory for gas pipeline from Myanmar to India, Bangladesh wants corridor through India for trade with Nepal and Bhutan and for bringing electricity.

Earlier, in a letter dated March 7 the Indian Petroleum Minister expressed his desire to discuss the issues relating to the gas pipeline, before signing the MoU. AKM Mosharraf Hossain, former State Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources sat across the table with the Indian Petroleum Minister Moni Shankar Aiyar and Myanmar Energy Minister Lun Thai in Myanmar in January last and fixed the date of signing a MoU. The Indian government arranged a meeting with the Myanmar authorities excluding Bangladesh last month to explore the possibility of taking the pipeline from Myanmar to Mizoram and onwards to Assam ending in West Bengal, covering a distance of 1400km, which is roughly double the length of the pipeline should it travel through Bangladesh.

After the recent visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh to Bangladesh, the deadlock over the proposed gas pipeline seemed to have been removed as he expressed the desire to continue efforts to facilitate the laying of gas pipeline from Myanmar to India via Bangladesh.

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