AFP: India's oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar Monday said he would visit Islamabad in the second half of May to discuss the modalities of a gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan to India.
"Over the weekend, I received an invite from the Pakistan Prime Minister through their High Commission (embassy) in India to visit Islamabad in April," Aiyar told reporters in New Delhi, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said. AFP

NEW DELHI - India's oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar Monday said he would visit Islamabad in the second half of May to discuss the modalities of a gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan to India.

"Over the weekend, I received an invite from the Pakistan Prime Minister through their High Commission (embassy) in India to visit Islamabad in April," Aiyar told reporters in New Delhi, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said.

"But as I will not be available on the date mentioned, I have proposed postponement of my visit to the second half of May," he said.

Aiyar is due to visit Tehran in June to seal the deal for the import of natural gas from Iran via a 2600-kilometre (1,612 mile) overland pipeline.

Last month, India's cabinet after years of dithering, allowed the oil ministry to enter discussions with countries in the region for supply of gas by pipeline to meet the ever-growing needs of the burgeoning economy.

Negotiations on the pipeline began in 1994 but little headway was made because of tensions between Pakistan and India, which have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947 from Britain.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a visit here two weeks ago expressed Washington's reservations about New Delhi entering into an energy cooperation deal with Tehran, which the United States claims is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

But Aiyar responded by saying India would not be deterred by Washington's opposition to the gas from Iran project.

Besides meeting Pakistani Premier Shaukat Aziz, Aiyar will also hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart to discuss the Iran-India pipeline and diesel and petrochemical exports from India, the PTI report said.

"There are a whole lot of issues that will be discussed when I visit Pakistan," Aiyar told reporters.

A petroleum ministry official said Aiyar would also discuss "issues like the route of the pipeline and the transit fee with Pakistan, which will have an important bearing on the cost of the gas."