Talks for a gas pipeline from Bengal to Myanmar via Bangladesh are likely to be revived as Dhaka has renewed its interest.
However, the pipeline is unlikely to figure in the agenda of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her first visit to India next month after being elected with an overwhelming mandate in December 2008, a leading English daily “The Telegraph” said in a recent report.
Telegraph said, during her visit, Hasina is expected to wrest some trade concessions as well as ink a transit deal that will give Bangladesh access to Nepal and Bhutan by road and rail, while opening up the port of Ashuganj for Indian goods meant for the Northeast.
In the project, gas produced by Indian Public Sector Units in Myanmar will be transported to India, and the negotiations will be tri- partite.
After years of stalling on negotiations, the Bangladesh government, which does not enjoy the best of relations with Myanmar, has sent signals of its willingness to talk business – it will allow the pipeline in return for a royalty in hard currency for giving passage, the report further said.
The pipeline could cost India about $600 million, of which 60 per cent would be invested in Bangladesh. The South Asian nation would also earn nearly $100 million as carrier fee every year.
Officials said, the talks, which are still to take off, did not envisage the evacuation of Bangladesh’s gas to India.
“We are very clear that India only wants to evacuate gas from the gas fields in Myanmar through Arakan, Bangladesh and into Bengal to feed industry in eastern and northern India. We have no plans to seek gas from Bangladesh. Rather, Bangladesh could, if it so desires, buy excess gas from our fields.”
Opposition legislators of Bangladesh are against sales to India. In January 2005, energy ministers of the three countries had met in Yangon to discuss the construction of the pipeline, with a total length of 950km, and signed a draft memorandum of understanding.
The pipeline was expected to enter Bangladesh at the Brahmanbaria border and Bengal from Rajshahi.
Officials said, the pipeline could help evacuate gas from the Shwe gasfields as well as from new finds, in which Indian firms participate.
In June, ONGC Videsh Ltd, GAIL (India) Limited and South Korea’s Daewoo had announced the discovery of a huge field in Block A-3, offshore Myanmar.