New Delhi: India’s Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid indicated on Wednesday that his country may rejoin the multibillion dollar Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline in what appears to be a significant shift in New Delhi’s policy.
“If there is seriousness from all sides we are ready to import natural gas from Iran and Central Asia through Pakistan,” Khurshid told a group of Pakistani journalists visiting New Delhi at the invitation of the Indian government.
Such regional projects could create ‘inter-dependencies’ and would compel both Pakistan and India to have a long-term cooperative relationship, he said.
India pulled out from what was once described as ‘peace pipeline’ in 2009 ostensibly due to its civilian nuclear deal with the United States, which has long pressed both Islamabad and New Delhi to stay away from the project.
When asked, the minister insisted that his country had never backed out from the IP gas pipeline. “When you make such a huge investment in a project, you need to show seriousness… rhetoric only will not work,” he said while explaining the reason behind India’s move to distance itself from the project.
India’s renewed interest in the project comes against the backdrop of a recent nuclear deal between the West and Iran.
Analysts believe the agreement could lead to India reviving the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project. The Congress government is already under criticism from left-wing politicians and Muslim leaders in the country over its policy of distancing India from Iran at the behest of the US.
The IP gas pipeline is facing an uncertain future as the Pakistani government is under intense pressure from the US to abandon the project.
The Indian foreign minister did not rule out the possibility of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting Pakistan before his term expires in a few months time. “It is his (Manmohan’s) deepest wish to visit Pakistan,” Khurshid said.
“If everything moves according to the roadmap, then the Indian prime minister will certainly visit Pakistan,” he added.
Answering a question, the Indian foreign minister insisted that the ‘right atmosphere’ was needed to revive the full spectrum of the peace process between the two countries.
He also acknowledged that there were larger political issues between Pakistan and India but ruled out any flexibility on the longstanding Kashmir dispute.
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already said it very categorically that he is willing to go the extra mile to improve ties with Pakistan but it is not possible for him to redraw the borders,” Khurshid said.
“We need to forget about the past and move forward with a new mindset.”