Post Mumbai Attacks : Iran-India Pipeline is Dead
I read an excellent article in the Times of India by Swaminathan Aiyar on Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. He argued why the project is dead now.
The problem is the denial. Post-Mumbai attacks, we’ve seen so many flip-flops from the ministers and officials of Pakistan that we can expect in the pipeline also.
The problem in the current plan is that there is a section of pipeline that is dedicated to India (See the Red dotted line on the map) but it is coming from Pakistan. If some militants (read LeT for the time being) blow it up, Pakistan government would put the blame on “non-state” actors and they could set up a “joint investigation council” to investigate it. They will argue that Baloch (Balochistan is the shaded region in the map of Pakistan) separatists indeed bomb their own pipelines, so they are also a victim of similar terrorist attacks. Furthermore, it could ask for “credible evidences” to find out non-state actors even if everybody knows who did it.
This possibility would skyrocket the insurance premium and that would damage the viability of the project. It is possible that we could get cheaper gas with a lower insurance premium if we get a pipeline undersea. The undersea pipeline, again, has a higher cost to build and maintain.
What he proposes is quite interesting. We need to go for a design where a destruction of the pipeline would damage both India and Pakistan equally. To ensure that, the pipeline must come to a point where both India and Pakistan has equal stake. As per him, a point at Kutch, at India-Pakistan border, we could split the pipeline into two – one towards Pakistan and the other to India (See the Grey line on the map). This would increase the length of the pipeline but would make the project viable. Because, this design follows MAD or Mutual Assured Destruction. If the pipeline is sabotaged, both sides will suffer equally. This will make both parties equally careful about the pipeline. Once this is ensured, the insurance premium will go lower. However, he did not propose any solution for the TAP (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan -> India) gas pipeline (See Green dotted lines on the Map). If we go by him, that project is also gone out of hand. it would pass through the uncontrolled Afghanistan and NWFP where these “non-state actors” reign.
Of late Pakistan has proposed Iran to buy India’s share of gas from the IPI Pipeline. It is because they understand that India would probably not participate in that in forseeable future. They’ll probably put pressure on Iran to get the price of gas reduced. It’s a tactical ploy which may or may not produce fruitful result.