Saturday, March 26, 2011

US Wanted Bangladesh Gas For India

Wikileaks has claimed that the US was keen on India importing natural gas from Bangladesh, thus lowering its fuel dependency on Iran. In a leaked cable, sent by US ambassador to New Delhi David C Mulford to then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on Sep 13 2005 upcoming meeting with the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and foreign minister Natwar Singh could create scopes to “challenge India to take equally difficult steps on relations with Tehran”. “New Delhi is trying to support us without alienating Tehran, on whom it depends for current oil supplies, future natural gas imports (pipeline and LNG) and access to Afghanistan and Central Asia,” the cable said. “There is little warmth to the India-Iran relationship, suggesting that India’s attachment to Iran could weaken as and when New Delhi is able to secure other energy sources (e.g. gas pipeline from Bangladesh) and alternative access routes to Central Asia (e.g., overland transit through Pakistan), ” Mulford pointed out. In 2002 Bangladesh and outside worked to persuade export of natural gas from the country to India, including the Indian subsidiary of American oil giant Unocal Corporation. Unocal also submitted a gas export pipeline proposal, known as the Bangladesh Natural Gas Pipeline Project, to the state-run Petrobangla. Bangladesh has been opposed to the export of gas to India on the pretext that it does not have enough gas reserves to meet its own domestic requirements. However, Unocal officials say that based on the current domestic gas consumption in Bangladesh, there appeared to be enough gas supplies to last more than 170 years. INDIA SHOULD BE VOCAL AGAINST IRAN Mulford also pointed out that he had difficulty persuading Natwar and secretary Shyam Saran that “ Iran could jeopardise both our nuclear initiative and India’s regional security interests”. “Your meetings provide an occasion to encourage the [India] to exercise leadership on this Iran issue, rather than hiding behind the NAM consensus, as happened on UN reform,” he added. He said that he was informed by the Indian foreign minister that the “Iranians [had] reacted very negatively when Natwar pushed privately on [Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty] compliance during his recent visit to Tehran.” “That said, Natwar Singh must be made to recognise that Congress is watching India’s role at the IAEA with great care, and the Indian vote in Vienna will have real consequences for our ability to push ahead on civil nuclear energy cooperation,” the cable said. He cautioned that the Indians might want to “lie low” and hope that the question of who they supported in the IAEA Board of Governors vote on Sep 19 arise during the discussions in New York. “We need to give a clear accounting of these stakes, while also preserving the significant equity that we have built-up in the transforming US-India relationship, ” he stated.