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Burma -Bangladesh-India gas pipeline/Dhaka-Delhi fail to reach consensus

Siddique Islam
From Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)
Dhaka, September 05, 2005:

Visiting Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and Energy Advisor of Bangladesh Mahmudur Rahman seen during officials talks in Dhaka on Monday. Bangladesh and India failed to reach a consensus on implementing Dhaka's conditions in lieu of the right of way for the much-hyped tri-nation gas pipeline project.

New Delhi wants to source gas from Burma through Bangladesh in the light of the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline project. Both sides are positive and want to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) but Dhaka stuck to its stance on the three conditions it has laid down for allowing the pipeline to pass through Bangladesh, sources said. Both the Energy Adviser Mahmudur Rahman and the visiting Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar spoke of their position after the talks held at a local hotel on Monday.

They told the newsmen that both sides will discuss the conditions set by Bangladesh in their respective cabinets and then see whether the conditions could be met on a tripartite or bilateral level. The three conditions laid down by Bangladesh are: reducing trade imbalance, transit facility through India to facilitate transmission of hydroelectricity from Nepal and Bhutan to Bangladesh and unhindered utilization of a corridor for trading between Bangladesh Bhutan and Nepal through Indian Territory.

During the meeting, Aiyar indicated that India wants to deal with the three conditions bilaterally. But, Bangladesh wants the matter to be dealt trilaterally, the sources added.

"I have emerged from the meeting with Mahmudur Rahman with considerable satisfaction. We have had a very constructive dialogue, which I think has opened the path to a resolution of the few remaining issues in respect of our draft MoU on the trilateral pipeline as well as processes for moving forward on the bilateral joint press statement in Rangoon" the Indian Minister told reporters while replying to their queries.

Mahmudur Rahman told reporters that India wants to set up the tri-nation gas pipeline using Bangladesh territory. "Despite India's sincerity in agreeing with our demands, they want to make it bilateral, which is contrary to the draft MoU signed between us. However, we want it to make trilateral."

Aiyar led the talks on the Indian side along with the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Veena Sikri, additional secretary of the Indian Petroleum Ministry Talmiz Ahmad, Joint Secretary (legal) Srivastava and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) chairman and managing director Proshanto Banerjee. On the other hand, Mahmudur Rahman led the Bangladesh side assisted by Energy Secretary of Bangladesh A.M.M. Nasir Uddin, additional secretary Ehsan Ul Fattah, Petrobangla chairman S.R. Osmani.

Earlier, a meeting of the energy ministers of three countries held at Burma's capital Rangoon in January agreed in principle on gas supply from Burma to India through Bangladesh in the light of a proposal put forward by Mohana Holdings Limited.

The three countries agreed with the three conditions proposed by Bangladesh in implementing the tri-nation pipeline and made a declaration. In the light of the declaration a techno-commercial committee was formed comprising experts of the three countries that finalized the draft MoU.

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