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Russia keen on stake in pipeline project

Shri Murli Deora.jpg

Russia is keen to take an equity stake in the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, currently in the doldrums owing to differences on key issues such as pricing.

Russian Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko proposed his country's interest in the project during a meeting with Petroleum Minister Murli Deora in Moscow earlier this week.

Mr. Deora told The Hindu that the other project partners would have to be consulted before taking Russia on board. He indicated that Russia's participation could give an impetus to the languishing project.

Pricing issue

Talks are currently stalled over gas pricing, as the rates proposed by Iran are much higher than that envisaged. Besides, many oil industry experts here have not been in favour of the project because of security considerations in maintaining an overland pipeline.

Mr. Deora said Russia could provide greater financial muscle to the venture. It has to be seen whether Iran and Pakistan would welcome the Russian stake in the project, but Mr. Deora felt there should be no problem.

He said that he had sought Russian participation in the downstream oil sector, including setting up major oil refineries in the country. In turn, India was seeking to invest in the Russian oil and gas sector on the lines of participation in the Sakahlin I oilfield development. India's interest in investing in Sakhalin III was also conveyed to the Russian authorities.

Mr. Deora has invited Mr. Khristenko to be present at the Mangalore terminal when the first cargo of crude oil from Sakhalin I arrived in November.

"Precarious situation"

In his keynote address at the Moscow Energy Dialogue conference, Mr. Deora highlighted India's "precarious situation" on the energy front. "Either we expose ourselves fully to the vagaries of the market-dictated oil prices or else join the race with the other leading oil-deficit countries to purchase oil assets at whatever price they are available, which in turn would raise the price of oil and assets further," he said.

© The Hindu

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