New Delhi, Jan. 17: A week before he is to arrive in India for a state visit, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami has sent his special envoy to urge the Indian leadership to agree to Tehranís proposal of allowing the gas pipeline to pass through Pakistan.
Iranian deputy foreign minister S.M.H. Adelhi, who met senior leaders over the past three days, handed over a letter from the Iranian President for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, highlighting the potential for long-term tie-ups between the two countries.
Details of the personal letter from Khatami to Vajpayee were not divulged.
However, sources in South Block said the main thrust of the missive was to show how India would gain if it agrees to let the gas pipeline pass through Pakistani territory.
Adelhi met foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal and national security advisor and the Prime Ministerís principal secretary Brajesh Mishra to put across Tehranís point of view.
The Iranian President arrives here on January 23 and, over the next two days, is scheduled to hold wide-ranging discussions with the Indian leadership. He will also be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26.
Iran recently proposed a cheap price and a new multinational company if India agrees to the gas pipeline passing through Pakistan.
Tehran is also talking about a consortium of international bankers and energy majors ó led by Australiaís BHP ó who will own and operate the pipelines and will be responsible for ensuring that the gas reaches India.
BHP and Italyís Snamprogetti are carrying out feasibility studies of both the on-land and the sub-sea routes for the Iranian gas pipeline.
Tehran is now willing to deliver gas through the on-land pipeline at $1.8 per mmbtu (million metric British thermal units) to India. This will cut down the price by more than half of what India has to pay for imported liquified natural gas.
Iran may bring the price down further if India agrees to the pipeline being routed through Pakistan.
When Khatami was in Pakistan last month, he discussed the proposed pipeline deal with President Pervez Musharraf and other senior officials in Islamabad. The Musharraf regime is keen to see the pipeline passes through Pakistan as it will allow the government to earn at least $50 million as transit fees.
Opinion among senior Indian leaders is divided over the Iranian proposal. A section is not averse to the pipeline taking the land route through Pakistan as it is the cheapest option. Moreover, this section feels that if Islamabad is involved in the deal it will dilute Pakistanís insistence on making Kashmir the central issue in developing its relations with India.
However, hawks in Delhi had been arguing that, as the money that Pakistan will earn from transit fees will be used to fuel terrorist activities against India, Delhi should not agree to any proposal that involves Islamabad.