Pakistan's energy minister Thursday promised a safe route for the proposed Iran-India gas pipeline, seen here as a model for unlocking the region's immense energy potential.
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Usman Aminudddin told a conference of his counterparts from the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) that the pipeline could form part of a regional energy network.
"In our estimation, what the ECO member states need is a network of oil and gas pipelines in different directions," he was quoted as saying on the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.
"It would be Pakistan's endeavor to contribute positively to the expansion of regional cooperation in this sector" through exploration, drilling, production and technical services to member states.
Iran and India have started technical studies on the project, which would transport Iranian natural gas to India through India's rival Pakistan.
The 10-nation ECO groups Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan.
The two-day ECO ministerial conference has focused on the petroleum and power sectors, especially the construction of oil and gas pipelines.
Talks over another proposed gas pipeline linking Pakistan and Turkmenistan through Afghanistan have been on hold since 1998 due to the Afghan civil war between the ruling Taliban militia and the opposition alliance.
Pipelines were high on the agenda of Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf when he visited Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan earlier this week.
Pakistan is eager to use its 1,000-kilometre (625-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea to ship Central Asian oil to Southeast Asia and the Far East, but is facing stiff competition from other potential pipeline routes.
Kazakhstan has said its first priority is to export oil from the landlocked state to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossisk.
But Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, who accompanied Musharraf to Astana, said Kazakhstan was also interested in exploring a pipeline via Iran and then also via Pakistan.
Aminudddin said Pakistan supplies only 15 percent of its own oil needs and the rising costs of imports was a major drain on the country's foreign reserves.—AFP.
©--Agence France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)