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India hardens its stance on Iran pipeline

Aware of Iran’s dependence on India to market its gas, New Delhi is dragging its feet even as Tehran pumped up the gas on the proposed Iran-India pipeline traversing through Pakistan.

Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who discussed the pipeline with Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Wednesday, is leaving for Tehran early next month for bilaterals with his Iranian counterpart Bijan Zanganeh before attending a conference on new investments and projects in Iran.

Aiyar is making the air-dash only after Tehran linked Zanganeh’s attendance in a ministerial roundtable hosted by India in January with Aiyar’s presence in the conference. Earlier, Aiyar had excused himself because Parliament would be in session starting next month.

The Ministry of External Affairs is insisting that Iran and Pakistan provide reverse transit facilities so that India gets a land route and a foothold in Central Asia business. It also wants Islamabad to grant India the MFN status — a message reiterated by Aiyar during his meeting with Aziz.

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