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India looks east for gas

Siddharth Srivastava
From Asia Times
September 28, 2005
link to this article.

With the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline caught in the US crossfire over Iran, India's quest for energy security continues in other fronts, with progress being made in the proposed Myanmar-Bangladesh-India (MBI) gas pipeline project.

As US interests in these regions is low at the moment, India has been talking in earnest with the two nations to iron out differences on the project. Some analysts predict an early breakthrough, with the project possibly moving onto the implementation stage quicker than expected.

India's zealous Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer has been shuttling between Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Central Asian countries. Earlier this month, a fractured leg did not prevent Aiyer from proceeding to Dhaka from London (where he was on a visit) for talks on MBI. Aiyer said there has been positive development on the US$1 billion tri-nation pipeline project. "My impression is that things are moving forward," he said after a one-hour meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan.

With the IPI in a logjam, deepened by India voting for the possible UN Security Council referral of Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting at Vienna, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to have prodded Aiyer as well as Foreign Minister Natwar Singh on the MBI.

The high-level meeting with the prime minister cleared Aiyer's visit to Dhaka for talks to thrash out the details of a trilateral memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh and Myanmar that has been delayed over inclusion of bilateral issues, which India feels should be dealt with independently.

Though Bangladesh stands to earn substantial transit fees of $125 million per year, it has set conditions that include creation of corridors through India to carry out trade with other neighbors such as Nepal and Bhutan as well as steps to reduce its $2.5 billion trade deficit with India.

In January, India had reached an agreement in principle with Myanmar and Bangladesh on the pipeline that will bring natural gas from Myanmar's Shwe gas fields to India via Bangladesh. Under the agreement, Dhaka can decide whether to supply its own gas into the Myanmar pipeline without any fear of depending too much on its giant neighbor, India.

Apart from energy security for India, the deal can improve relations between India and Bangladesh, which have dipped sharply in the last few years due to India's suspicions that Dhaka is ignoring the rise of Islamic extremism and militancy.

Aiyer had said in January: "When you look at a map you may accuse me of dreaming, but as a minister I am paid to dream. We have the Bangladesh-Burma [Myanmar] pipeline, we are looking at a pipeline from Iran that would cross Pakistan, and we want a pipeline from Turkmenistan that would cross Afghanistan and Pakistan."

India has been trying hard to push the Turkmenistan-Pakistan-Afghanistan pipeline. During his visit to Kabul in August, Manmohan said India would prefer to have gas pipelines from both Iran and Turkmenistan. Analysts are, however, skeptical about the natural exportable gas reserves from Turkmenistan.

Aiyer's latest visit to Dhaka assumes significance as New Delhi and Yangon have begun exploring alternatives for importing gas from offshore Myanmar due to failure of progress with Bangladesh. Aiyer has talked of the possibility of constructing the pipeline from Myanmar into Mizoram and onwards to Assam (both in northeast India) and culminating in West Bengal, a total distance of 1,400 kilometers.

This route is approximately twice the length the pipeline would travel if it were to pass through Bangladesh. As a further hardening of its stance, Bangladesh was not invited to the third meeting on the project in New Delhi. However, given the economic advantages as well as higher feasibility, India opened another window for negotiations with Bangladesh. Foreign Minister Natwar Singh visited Dhaka in August and said the tri-nation project would not proceed without Bangladesh's involvement.

Some analysts see India's renewed vigor in MBI due to a possible delay in the IPI project because of US reservations about Iran's nuclear program. With India siding with the US and Europe at the IAEA, it is now apparent that New Delhi does not want to jeopardize its growing relations with the US. In early June, Aiyer made a 10-day trip to Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Iran to secure long-term oil and gas contracts for energy-starved India. He struck deals everywhere, but caught the attention of US when he arrived in Tehran to announce that India was ready to proceed with the $7 billion IPI gas pipeline. The US at once denounced the project.

As was apparent during Manmohan's recent four-day visit to New York for the UN General Assembly meetings, the US will make it difficult for India to pursue the IPI, with Pakistan also indicating that it might withdraw from the project if the US meets some of its strategic demands. There is thus immense political pressure on New Delhi to show results on the energy front.

India is happy that Dhaka seems to have turned a new leaf, given the economic benefits that can flow and the pressure from India and Myanmar. Briefing newsmen after the talks with Aiyer, Bangladeshi energy advisor Mahmudur Rahman said: "The Indian minister visited Dhaka to understand our stand on the pipeline issue and we tried to let India understand that economic development of Bangladesh would also benefit India." He said Aiyer did not have any objection in principle against Dhaka's conditions but thought that those should not be tagged with the pipeline issue.

India's quest for energy sources is also rooted in the huge supply gaps that need to be plugged. India imports nearly 70% of its energy needs, with estimates suggesting that by 2020 the country will be importing 85% of its energy requirements. India has to tap into international resources for crude oil or natural gas.

India produces about 90 million standard cubic meters of natural gas per day as against its daily demand of 120 million standard cubic meters that is likely to go further in the coming years. The projected demand of natural gas in India by 2020 stands at a huge 400 million standard cubic meters a day which cannot be met domestically.

In the past few years, India's public sector oil companies such as the Oil and Natural Gas Commission and Oil India have made successful bids in oil exploration and production deals in Libya, Iran and Central Asia. Experts say the switch to natural gas and the construction of the three pipelines provides three huge resources of energy from three different directions. This will give India a jump of 20 years to implement other alternative energy like hydrogen fuel.

In an interview, Aiyer said: "Our primary focus is now to convert these in-principle [pipeline] deals into firm techno-commercial agreements. If these can become a reality, it would herald a new beginning in the Asian oil economy ... If these pipelines can bring together countries that have been separated from each other, we can build the biggest geopolitical pact of the 21st century."

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Draft framework on direct road link with Myanmar at final stage

Siddique Islam
From Financial Express
September 25 2005
Dhaka is expected to finalise a draft framework on direct road link between Bangladesh and Myanmar to promote trade and tourism and facilitate establishment of regional communications.(Financial Express)
A three-member delegation, headed by Communication Secretary Shafiqul Islam, will fly to Yangon Sunday morning to attend a high-level meeting on the proposed Bangladesh-Myanmar Friendship Road scheduled for Monday.
Additional Chief Engineer of Roads and Highways Department of Bangladesh Idris Miah and an official of the foreign ministry of Bangladesh will assist the communication secretary at the meeting, official sources said.
"An agreement will be signed between the two countries after finalising the draft framework on the project," a senior official, who will also attend the meeting, told the Financial Express (FE) Saturday.
The official said the construction work on a 23-kilometre road is likely to start by the end of October once the agreement is signed by concerned ministers of the both countries. The road will be a part of the Asian highway.

Earlier, the proposed road link project had suffered a setback as the Myanmar government showed reluctance to finalise the agreement citing inability to finance its own portion of the road. It had said the project was not on its priority list.

However, hopes for construction of the highway were rekindled as Yangon on August 14 asked Dhaka to send a team to finalise the framework of the agreement on the 153-km road link, whose draft Dhaka had sent to Myanmar capital in June.

Bangladesh ambassador to Myanmar in a letter also urged the communications ministry to send a high-powered delegation, headed by the communications secretary, to finalise the framework.

According to the communication ministry officials, the road link would boost regional cooperation by strengthening economic and trade relations in South and Southeast Asia.

Bangladesh government will finance construction of the first 23-km of the road from Taungbro to Bawlibazar in Myanmar.

The proposed road will stretch from Taungbro to Kyauktaw in Myanmar via Ramu-Gundom to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. It will be constructed in two phases at an estimated cost of $141.37 million.

In the second phase, another 110-km stretch of road from Bawli Bazar to Kyautaw in Myanmar will be constructed at a cost of around US$ 116 million.Sources, however, said the fund for construction of the second phase of the proposed road is yet to be finalised.

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Direct Road Link Dhaka, Yangon to finalise draft deal this month

AMO
From The Daily Star, Bangladesh
September 16, 2005
link to this article.

Bangladesh and Myanmar will finalise the draft Agreement on Direct Road Link between the two countries during the senior officials level meeting to be held in Yangon on September 25-27, said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Zahirul Haque, director general of the External Publicity Wing of the foreign ministry, told diplomatic corps at a briefing yesterday that both the countries have agreed upon constructing the road and a three-member Bangladesh delegation led by the communication ministry secretary will join the Yangon meeting.

Bangladesh government will finance the construction of the first 23 kilometres of the road from Taungbro to Bawlibazar, while Myanmar will ensure the land needed for the construction, waive duties, taxes, levies etc, he said.

The direct road link with Myanmar, which will also connect Thailand, China and other countries, aims to promote trade, tourism and facilitate regional transport linkage.

Also shedding lights on some outcomes of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's visit to Singapore in March, Haque said at the briefing that three business deals among private sector organisations have been concluded recently.

One of the deals was the gasohol project at Kishoreganj between Nitol Motors Ltd of Bangladesh and Far East Distillers Ltd and Peter Khong International of Singapore, which is expected to go into production within a year.

Gasohol is a mixture of petrol and anhydrous ethanol in various ratios up to 23 percent or higher percentage of anhydrous ethanol with petrol or octane.

Gasohol improves anti-knocking agent and makes a car engine run smoother while the addition of ethanol, a good oxygenate, reduces environment pollution by minimising carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons concentration in the exhaust pipe.

The spokesman said according to the proposed project, the daily production will stand at 12,000 litres of gasohol by using molasses produced in the country's sugar mills. A portion of the gasohol will be exported, he said.

Haque said in the past one year, many Asian countries including India, China, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and New Zealand have implemented the use of ethanol at a 10-20 percent mixture with petrol for automobiles.

Bangladesh has dependable supply of molasses, a major source of ethanol, with which we can go for the production of gasohol, Zahirul Haque said.

In another development, Singapore government has agreed to allow Bangladeshi students there to work part-time and full-time during vacations and 16 hours per week during normal school days with the consent of the institutions, Haque said.

Foreign Secretary Hemayet-uddin raised the issue at the first foreign office consultation between the two countries held in Singapore on August 14-15.

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Myanmar pipeline MoU likely in Nov

Anupama Airy
From The Financial Express, India
September 7, 2005
link to this article.

The petroleum ministry is hopeful of signing the much-delayed trilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the transnational gas pipeline project from Myanmar to India via Bangladesh by November-end.

A senior ministry official said the government was favourably considering Dhaka's proposal on giving it duty free access to the Indian markets as a least developed country (LDC).
Bangladesh's economy being export-led, India's support is seen as vital for its economic growth. Currently, duty-free access has been given to Dhaka for 90 items and the latter wants India to include ceramics, textiles besides some other items.

The other two issues raised by Dhaka relating to transit rights and power trade with Bhutan and Nepal are also being addressed at appropriate levels. India has categorically told Dhaka that it should not link any of these issues with that of the pipeline project.

"The recent visit of two senior ministers from India (external affairs and petroleum ministry) clearly indicates the seriousness with which we want to iron out the issues. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar before his visit to Dhaka and asked him to speed up the process of bringing gas from Myanmar to India," the official said.

Mr Aiyar during his visit made it clear that Bangladesh should not link these issues with the pipeline project. "More than the energy corridor issue or the issue on trade rights, Dhaka is now insiting more on the $2 billion trade imbalance issue. The commerce ministry is already looking into this issue and Mr Aiyar would also be writing to his commerce ministry counterpart in this regard," the official said.

At the same time, India has also made it clear that it will simultaneously pursue other options in the event of Bangladesh not joining the pipeline project as "we are not willing to forego the gas from Myanmar", said the ministry official.

Gas from Myanmar is seen as vital for meeting India's energy security. Myanmar is keen to settle the issue of evacuation of gas from two fields in the Arakan region where Indian companies hold 30% stakes. Myanmar has been exerting pressure for an early decision, indicating there were other buyers for the gas, which is expected to become available from next year.

Keen to give some comfort level to Myanmar, Indian authorities are mulling various options including setting up a power plant near the border for transmission into the northeast and eastern parts of India.

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Aiyar goes home 'satisfied', declines to talk trade issues

From The Independent, Bangladesh
September 6, 2005
link to this article.

Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar yesterday at crucial meetings with Bangladesh ministers on the much-talked-about tri-nation gas pipeline project categorically mentioned the Indian position saying that India will not accept any conditions from Bangladesh related to this project.

At a meeting with Mahmudur Rahman, the Adviser on the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Aiyar said issues relating to trade and tariff should not be discussed at the tri-lateral meeting, it should be discussed at bi-lateral talks, a meeting source said.

Aiyar termed the meeting "considerably successful" and told journalists that they discussed the matter in accordance with the guidelines of draft MoU which was finalised at the first meeting of the Techno-Economic Working Committee on Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline in Yangon on February 25, 2005.

Indian steps to reduce trade imbalance against Bangladesh dominated the meeting. It is learnt that Bangladesh will put certain conditions for allowing the gas pipeline to run from Myanmar to India through its territory. The preconditions are: Indian steps to reduce trade imbalance against Bangladesh and allowing Bangladesh to carry out direct trade with Nepal and Bhutan, and the import of power from Nepal and Bhutan through Indian territories.

According to observers, it seemed that there remained a deadlock over the conditions tagged by Bangladesh in adopting the tri-nation project. But at the end of the day following the Indian minister's separate meetings with the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister both sides signalled that there was a breakthrough.

The three conditions of Bangladesh included agreement on free trade. The Indian Petroleum Minister following his meeting with the Finance Minister said that India was ready to provide transit to Nepal. However, the Finance Minister said that free trade issue could wait as solving the transit and electricity issue were the priority.

"I am satisfied with the discussions and I hope to come here soon to sign the three-party agreement," the visiting Indian minister told newsmen following his meeting with the Finance and Planning minister M Saifur Rahman at the latter's office.

"After my discussion with the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Energy Adviser I am fully satisfied," the Indian minister said.

On the Bangladesh's demand to provide transit to Nepal, the minister said that the transit was very much there.

Bangladesh government raised the issue of poor conditions of the transit road and that could be solved if India would get specific proposal from Bangladesh regarding this, Aiyar said. But he did not mention the issue of allowing Bangladesh importing power from Nepal and Bhutan.

The Indian minister, who is also a popular newspaper columnist of his country, said that there was in reality no difference between the countries on the issue and "it was the question of engagement" that delayed the process.

He said that the completion of the proposed pipeline would benefit all the there countries and there would be "a win-win-win" situation not only "win-win" situation.

He said that he had discussed a wide range of issues with the Finance Minister.

Meanwhile, Energy Adviser Mahmudur Rahman said Bangladesh would still stick to its previous position on the issue of trans-border gas-pipeline through which India plans to import natural gas from Myanmar.

"A significant outcome of the meeting is, we are convinced, both Bangladesh and India, that there should be effective resolutions of bilateral issues between the two countries," he added.

Mani Shankar Aiyar arrived in Dhaka yesterday morning from London by a flight of British Airways with a fractured leg. From Zia International Airport he was taken to the car and later to the Apollo Hospital in a wheelchair. The Indian minister injured his leg in London shortly before boarding a British Airways for Dhaka. Aiyar left Dhaka about midnight yesterday.

Sources said when the Adviser on the Energy Ministry raised the trade gap issue, the Indian Petroleum Minister categorically said it should not be discussed in this forum. "I want to talk about the tri-nation pipeline issue, you should not link this issue to other thing as it is not under my jurisdiction. I can convey your position only. It is better to discuss tri-nation pipeline issue," Quoting Aiyar a meeting source said.

The sources said that after this the Energy Adviser told the Indian Petroleum Minister that in that case a separate committee could be formed under the Commerce Ministry who could look into the matter and prepare a joint-agreement paper in this regard and both the countries could sign the tri-nation MoU and Joint Agreement at same time.

Aiyar vehemently opposed the idea and said such a committee is already working there and "leave the matter to them to discuss."

"I apprised the cabinet of the whole thing and according to the advice of our government, we will convey our position to you", he said.

Regarding the other two issues, the Indian minister said that if Bangladesh could make any arrangement with Bhutan and Nepal then India has no objection to it, sources said.

However, the Adviser said that it was a "goodwill" visit and "we talked the tri-nation gas pipeline issue and it was a successful meeting."

"Visit by an influential minister like Mani ShankarAiyar is seen with importance in the context of Bangladesh-India bilateral relations", he added.

The draft of the MoU has been finalised at the first meeting of the Techno-Economic Working Committee on Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline which concluded in Yangon on February 25.

As per the decision of the meeting the three countries would conduct their own feasibility studies and submit the reports within 6 months, but all works related to the tri-nation gas pipeline remained buried for six months.

The proposal, pursued since 1996 by Mohona Holdings, has been approved in principle by the governments of the two Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura, and Myanmar.

Sources said the proposed pipeline would enter Bangladesh through the Brahmanbaria border from the Indian state of Tripura and will cross into West Bengal through the Rajshahi border.

Mohona, recently showed renewed interest in this $1billion project. A proposal also claims to add gas to its pipeline from India's Tripura region, where large-scale gas production remained uncertain for years due to insurgency.

UNB adds: Bangladesh modified its preconditions for allowing the planned tri-nation gas pipeline through its territory, apparently offering a tradeoff for transit to Nepal through India.

As per new stance, now Bangladesh wants to get resolved two issues-export to Nepal through Indian Corridor and the import of hydropower from Nepal through Indian territory-in one package to barter for the tri-nation gas-pipeline project.

Moreover, the third tag-balancing a yawning trade gap against Bangladesh-would be addressed in another away under a separate deal.

Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman, after his meeting with visiting Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, disclosed the modified position of the country on the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline.

He said trade issue could be addressed separately under a separate deal. "But, the issue of hydropower import from Nepal and export of goods to Nepal through Indian corridor must be addressed under a package deal with the issue of tri-nation gas pipeline," he said.

The reaction of the Indian Minister was not available immediately on the shift in Bangladesh position.

But he said the discussion is moving forward in a right direction. "I am extremely happy with the talks with Bangladesh side," he said after his meeting with Saifur Rahman.

Aiyar said after his visit, he would return to Delhi and inform his cabinet colleagues and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the matters and outcome of the meetings.

Adviser of the Bangladesh Energy Ministry Mahmudur Rahman said both the sides discussed positively and tried to understand each other's position.

He claimed the Indian Petroleum Minister showed positive outlook to the three preconditions set by Bangladesh for allowing the pipeline to pass through the country.

He said both the sides reiterated their respective position on different issues.

About differences between the two sides, Mahmud said Indian side opposed to link up the three conditions with the pipeline issue.

"But we tried to convince the Indian side that the three issues are very essential for our economy and we wanted to discuss those with the gas-pipeline issue... and we still stick to our position," the Advisor said.

Despite this discord, he said, the visit of Indian Minister and his meeting helped build confidence on both sides.

Visiting Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said that things are moving forward regarding the crucial issue of laying down tri-nation gas pipeline from Myanmar to India through Bangladesh.

"My impression is that things are moving forward," he told waiting reporters emerging from his hour-long meeting with Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan at the Foreign Office.

The Indian Minister also said that all the three countries of the region earlier appreciated the high importance of the tri-nation gas line project for their economic development.

During the meeting, Foreign Advisor Reaz Rahman, Foreign Secretary Hemayetuddin and Indian High Commissioner Veena Sikri were president.

Aiyar's advanced Dhaka visit came amid reports in a section of Indian media that the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline hit certain snags.

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India, Bangladesh agree on tri-nation gas pipeline

From Reuter
September 5, 2005
link to this article.

Bangladesh and India on Monday agreed in principle on a tri-nation gas pipeline project, allowing India to bring natural gas from Myanmar and Bangladesh to increase trade with landlocked Bhutan and Nepal.

Under the project, India will build a 290-km pipeline through Bangladesh to connect offshore gas fields in Myanmar to Indian states, officials said.

They said the initial agreement came at a meeting between Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and Bangladesh's energy adviser Mahmudur Rahman.

Aiyar flew to Dhaka on Monday, on a two-day visit, despite his broken leg, on a wheelchair.

"I am satisfied as the Indian petroleum minister was very much positive about all issues that came up during our discussion," Rahman told reporters after the meeting.

"Our discussion was very constructive and we tried to know each other," Aiyar said. "Discussion will continue," he added.

Rahman said the agreement needed further review before being sealed and would include transmission of power generated at hydroplants in Bhutan and Nepal across India's grid to Bangladesh.

"Bangladesh has also proposed a corridor (through India) to transport goods to Nepal as well as to bring in hydro electricity from Nepal and Bhutan," Rahman said.

"Besides, Bangladesh has urged India to narrow the huge trade gap between India and Bangladesh," Rahman added.

Bangladesh imports $1.8 billion worth of Indian products while India imported about $144.19 million from Bangladesh in 2004-05 (July-June) fiscal period, officials said.

In January, Bangladesh, India and Myanmar agreed to finalise soon details of the gas pipeline project, which would cost more than $1 billion.

But work on the project has been delayed due to differences between Dhaka and New Delhi over the trade and corridor issues.

The proposed pipeline will enter Bangladesh through its eastern Brahmanbaria border from the Indian territory of Tripura and cross into West Bengal through northern Rajshahi border.

If the plan is implemented, about $350 million will be invested in Bangladesh and the country will get nearly $100 million as carrier fee per year, energy officials said.

Bangladesh will also get another $100 million as one-off "right of way" charge from this project and $25 million each year for sharing in its management, the officials said.

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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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Aiyar in Dhaka to Iron Out Glitches in Burma-Bangladesh-India Gas Pipeline

Siddique Islam
From Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)
September 4, 2005
http://www.mizzima.com/mizzima/archives/news-in-2005/news-in-sept/04-Sep-05-09.htm to this article.


Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar arrives in Dhaka on Monday to proceed with the signing of an agreement on setting up a tri-nation gas pipeline to carry gas from Burma to India through Bangladesh.

The talks will be held at a local hotel in the city on Monday noon, in which Foreign Minister of Bangladesh M. Morshed Khan will lead the Bangladesh side. The Commerce Minister of Bangladesh Altaf Hossain Chowdhury and Energy Adviser Mahmudur Rahman will accompany the Foreign Minister.

On the other hand, Aiyar will lead the Indian side where the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Veena Sikri, additional secretary to the Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, Talmiz Ahmed and joint secretary Srivastava will accompany him. The delegation will include the chairman of the Gas Authority of India (GAIL).

The Indian Minister will fly into Dhaka on Monday morning from Delhi on a British Airways flight. He will leave Dhaka on Tuesday, sources in the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources of Bangladesh (MPEMR) told Mizzima News in Dhaka.

Bangladesh is ready for the next step in keeping with the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed on by the experts of the three countries at the Burmese capital Rangoon, the sources added.

"India is trying to find an alternative route. During the discussion, if India agrees on the previous MoU and wants to move ahead, there is no problem," a senior government official said in Sunday in Dhaka.

Dhaka hopes that the bilateral discussion will also cover energy cooperation between the two neighbouring countries apart from the gas pipeline.

"We will seek India's cooperation for human resource development especially for the coal sector. Besides, the issues of technical cooperation for oil and gas exploration will also be discussed," the official pointed out.

Earlier, the three countries agreed in principle to construct the tri-nation gas pipeline on the basis of a proposal of the Mohona Holding Ltd. a Bangladeshi firm, at the Rangoon meeting of energy ministers of three countries held last January.

A techno-commercial committee was formed with specialists from the three countries. The Committee prepared a draft memorandum in Burma last February. It is now awaiting approval.

The draft includes three conditions laid down by Bangladesh: facilities of communication, transit and hydro-electricity with Bhutan and Nepal in lieu of providing right of way to lay the tri-nation gas pipeline. The issue of reducing trade gaps was also included.

Later, India sought a specific proposal from Bangladesh on how to implement the three conditions. An inter-ministerial committee was formed in March to chalk out the process. Bangladesh will table these during the talks with the Indian Minister.

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