IPI gas pipeline a major concern for New Delhi: former Indian FM

February 13, 2007
NEW DELHI (IRNA) -- Applauding the Iranian initiative at the recent meeting of the three countries involved in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project in Tehran, India's former foreign secretary Salman Haidar said on Monday that the "IPI pipeline is more than a confidence-building measure."

Haidar, in an exclusive interview with IRNA, said that the pipeline is an important measure and something which can change the structure of relations in South Asia, adding that all countries concerned are taking the matter forward.

Elaborating further, the Indian expert, who initiated the process of confidence building measures with Pakistan, said the fact that Iran has consistently been promoting the pipeline over the past 10 years is satisfying, adding that some progress has finally been made into a very important source of energy for the region. He said that the "IPI pipeline is India's major concern and Iran will remain a major supplier in terms of energy to India and its role will expand in the coming come."

Highlighting the importance of Iran in the region, he said Iran has always been a country with which India has good relations. "We have seen our relationship not only in economic terms or cultural ties but much beyond."

"Tehran, being in an extended neighborhood, has offered extension facilities to Central Asia and Afghanistan and that is one of the aspects of the emerging partnership between India and Iran," he said, adding that he believed their relationship was bound to grow.

Commenting on the Indo-Iranian foreign ministers' joint statement in Tehran, he said it confirms the fact that Iran and India have a very strong relationship and as the Indian economy expands the Iranian position also strengthens. On the Indo-Iranian relationship, he said "Iran has a historical, cultural, economic, energy and geographical role in this larger region linking Asia, Central Asia and Russia and this is something which has received more emphasis and will continue to progress."

Commenting on trade as a factor in the region's development, he said trade will continue to grow as there is enormous potential to be tapped.

Ambassador Salman Haidar also directs the South Asian Political Initiative, a Ford Foundation-funded project to promote dialogue in South Asia through academic conferences.

A former Indian Foreign Service officer, Haidar has served as Indian ambassador to the United Kingdom, China and Bhutan and as first secretary and deputy to the ambassador in Afghanistan.

While in New Delhi, he served as foreign secretary, head of the diplomatic corps, secretary (East) and spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs and later chief of protocol among other diplomatic positions. Another prominent Indian expert and former director of India's Institute of Defense and Strategic Analyses (IDSA), Professor P R Chari, told IRNA that "Indo-Iranian relations are historical and both countries enjoy good relations dating back 2000-3000 years."

Chari, who is also research professor at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, was candid in saying "but lately, right from the time of the Islamic Revolution, our relations with Iran have been up and down and seriously what used to happen was that this relationship was much affected by Iran’s relations with Pakistan but this is not an issue."

He said: "Today it is Iran and its relations with the rest of the world, particularly with the western world, and the U.S., with whom India has an improving relationship, which is a big block since India has a commitment to non-proliferation and to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, which is, nuclear power."

He said India, "on the one hand, wants a nuclear foundation with the U.S. and, on the other hand, wants also to proceed with the oil and gas pipeline and New Delhi therefore has to do a balancing act."