IPI pipeline faces obscure future after Left's departure from UPA Government

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New Delhi, July 22 : It will be a tightrope walk for Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee when he reaches Tehran next week to attend ministerial meet of Non-Aligned Nations, where on the sidelines, he will also be holding bilateral talks with his Pakistani and Iranian ounterparts on the contours of 7.5 billion proposed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, which is also referred to as the peace pipeline.

Now, when the decks are cleared and the Left parties which are ardent supporters of the peace pipeline are out of the government's way and India has expedited its efforts to operationalize the Indo US civil nuclear agreement at the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, experts in New Delhi feel that it will be extremely difficult for India to go ahead with the pipeline in the present circumstances as the United States has raised serious objections to this proposed pipeline and will make all the efforts to scuttle it.

Former Indian ambassador to the United States Naresh Chandra says: "The US will exert pressure, but India will push ahead with the deal. More than US pressure, it is the exorbitant pricing by Iran and the issue of India's demand of delivery of gas at Indo Pak border which is deferring further movement on the deal.

Ministry of External Affairs sources, however, reject the view of their being any pressure from Washington. They say India will examine the economic viability and security aspects of the 1,724-mile long proposed pipeline before going ahead with the project.

The IPI pipeline got a fresh lease of life when Iranian President M. Ahmadnijad visited India in April and have set up a deadline to finalize this project.

Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan have also expressed optimism on the project when they met in New Delhi last month, In fact, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed that all bilateral issues pertaining to the peace pipeline are resolved.

It is not to be forgotten that India had voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna in February 2006 for referring the Iran nuclear issue to the UN Security Council, and now when Indian Government is lobbying hard to muster support from the NSG, a majority of whose members are in direct confrontation with Iran, India next move vis a vis the pipeline will be watched by the world. By Naveen Kapoor

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