As a major step towards fructifying the 4.16 billion US dollar Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, both India and Pakistan on Wednesday decided to appoint financial consultants by Sept. 15.
The decision to appoint financial consultants for the ambitious tri-nation gas venture came following the conclusion of the two- day meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) of India and Pakistan on Wednesday.
According to government officials, the two sides will appoint separate consultants who besides suggesting the project structure would also do a pre-feasibility study of the 2,600 kilometer long pipeline project to be built by 2009-10.
Both India and Pakistan want the project to get off the ground by early 2006.
The consultants will submit their report by end of November when Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer will travel to Pakistan for sealing a pact on the project, the officials added.
The consultants would also suggest commercial, legal, contractual and the way the project should be financed, sources said adding this was decided at the two-day joint working group meeting which ended Wednesday.
"This project is essential for sustainable and affordable energy for both the countries and for meeting the requirement of high economic growth rate," Pakistani oil secretary, Ahmed Waqar, who led his country's delegation at the JWG meet said at the end of the two-day talks.
Ahmed also said that the JWG has laid down a framework for further negotiations on the project.
Stating that the two sides had broad agreement on composition of gas, technical standards and techno-economic considerations, Indian petroleum secretary S C Tripathi said the agreement would make the project cost-effective for both the countries.
The Pakistani oil Secretary also said that Pakistan was looking at importing 10 million standard cubic meters per day (cmd) of gas from Iran beginning 2010 and increase it up to 60 million standard cmd over the next five years.
India, on the other hand will begin with 60 mms cmd of gas and increase imports to 90 mms cmd in three years time.
Asked about US reservations on the project, Waqar reiterated his country's position on the issue, saying "Our president and prime minister have stated on number of occasions that we would take a decision on what our public interest would demand."
It was also decided that the JWG would meet again next month to hammer out issues of safety and security of the pipeline before the summit between Indian Petroleum Minister and his Pakistani counterpart.