(persia digest) - The prospects of Iran-China cooperation in extending the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline (aka Peace pipeline) to China have had India seriously considering jumping on the bandwagon, an expert on Pakistani affairs said.
"Iran's willingness to cooperate with china to transfer energy from the Pakistani port of Gwadar to the Chinese city of Xinjiang has aroused India's interest to have a considerable part in completing the Peace pipeline to cushion their rival’s clout in the region," Pir-Mohammad Mulla Zehi told Persia Digest.
Iran and Pakistan started negotiating the Peace gas pipeline in 1995 and soon after a preliminary agreement was signed between the two countries. This agreement foresaw construction of a pipeline from Iran’s South Pars gas field, in the southwest of the country, to Karachi in Pakistan.
Iran has completed its part of the pipeline in its territory, but Pakistan, out of pressure from the US, has fallen behind the target to take delivery of gas, initially scheduled for 2014.
The new Pakistani Prime Minster Imran Khan has announced he is determined to finish the Peace pipeline project despite US pressures, a gesture welcomed by Iranian officials -- who said they are ready to talk over the project and renounce their right to sue Pakistan over repeated delays for its part of the deal.
What will be the fate of Peace pipeline under Imran Khan?
Although the Peace pipeline can address India and Pakistan's dire energy needs, its implementation faces two hurdles, Mulla Zehi said.
"The first hurdle is the US pressure on India to convince it into procuring its energy needs from Saudi Arabia," he said, adding that the Americans have also suggested they can sell their shale oil to India -- an option that is not economically viable.
"The other hurdle is the TAPI pipeline that aims to transfer gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and therein to Pakistan and India," the expert added.
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is a planned 1,800-kilometer stretch of pipeline aimed at transferring natural gas from Turkmenistan to India by bypassing Iran.
"These hurdles are there to make Pakistan and India abandon the Peace pipeline," Mulla Zehi said, adding that Iran is having a card up its sleeve that has not been played yet - China.
"Imran Khan has now said that he wants to see the project finished. Meanwhile, Iran has an advantage it has not yet used due to many reasons. Iran can take advantage of China's cooperation with Pakistan since Chinese officials have announced they want to build a pipeline from Gwadar to Xinjiang," he said.
"In case Iran opts to cooperate in this pipeline with China, the uncertainty surrounding the Peace pipeline will be removed."
The expert said that a Chinese company has announced it will finish about 60 to 70 kilometres of the Peace pipeline left in Pakistan without getting paid, only to be reimbursed after project completion.
"If Iran uses this opportunity, India will notice its rival’s presence and would also [cooperate to] have the Peace pipeline implemented. Although India is under US pressure, it will ultimately make a decision based on its national interests," Mulla Zehi said.
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