New Delhi, Feb. 9: The government today authorised the petroleum ministry to hold talks with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Myanmar to facilitate the laying of transnational pipelines to bring natural gas to India.
'The cabinet has approved the broad approach to hold negotiations with Pakistan, Iran, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to secure gas supplies through pipelines,' an upbeat petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told journalists after the meeting.
He said the petroleum ministry would still function in close co-ordination with the ministry of external affairs.
Aiyar has already made considerable headway in tripartite talks with Myanmar and Bangladesh to bring natural gas through an onland pipeline to Bengal with an in-principle agreement in place. He also said the 'techno-commercial group of India, Myanmar and Bangladesh on laying the gas pipeline will meet on February 17.'
India is also exploring the possibility of bringing the gas from Iran by a pipeline through Pakistan.
A third cross-country pipeline from gas-rich Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan is also under consideration. 'The Asian Development Bank had prepared a report on this pipeline. We will study it,' the minister said.
He added, 'We have started talks with Iran to supply gas on India-Pakistan border. Detailed discussions on the proposal will begin from Monday, when the Iranian delegation arrives here.'
He said the ball was in Pakistan's court as he had sent a letter to his counterpart in that country to hold discussions on the pipeline but had not received any response in the matter. 'I am still awaiting a response to hold further talks with Pakistan's oil minister,' he added.
The cabinet also approved the creation of a post of additional secretary (international operations) in the petroleum ministry. Talmiz Ahmed, a senior IFS officer, who was informally helping petroleum ministry in international initiatives, has been confirmed to the post.
Aiyar said there was scope to attach three or four IFS officers to his ministry as India was scouting for oil and gas all over the globe from Russia to Ecuador and Angola and they could help keep track of the developments in each country.
Aiyar said though initial estimates suggest that 60 million standard cubic metres (MMSCMD) of gas per day would be available to India from Iran, this amount could be increased. 'Pakistan has said it would require 50 MMSCMD of gas per day from the Iranian pipeline.'
Aiyar said by 2025, India would need 400 billion standard cubic metres of gas per day, of which half would have to come from international sources as the production from domestic fields, which is just 100 billion standard cubic metre per day, can only double in the next 20 years.
He said India's reliance on imported crude oil would also increase and 85 per cent of the requirement would have to be soured from abroad by 2025. 'Energy security is the key component of the national common minimum programme and these steps will go a long way in enhancing it,' he added.