One pipe dream nears reality

India, Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed on a deal

It is a well-accepted fact that given most sources of oil and natural gas are controlled by rather repulsive regimes, signing energy deals involves holding your nose with one hand and signing off with the other. India is doing so with a newfound gusto, and hardly a week passes these days without news of India securing new energy deals. And Mani Shankar Aiyar is getting good press.

On the matter of international pipelines bringing natural gas into India, the Acorn has been a strong advocate of the eastern pipeline project — bringing gas from Myanmar and passing through Bangladesh. Greater economic activity in India’s eastern and north-eastern states is necessary for their development, which has remained lacklustre due to a variety of reasons, Central inattention not being the least of them. Greater economic cooperation with Bangladesh too is long overdue.

So the signing of an agreement to build the pipeline is good news — and will make the details (and there are many) easier to be worked out. Besides receiving lucrative transit fees and an option to buy or sell gas using the same pipeline, Bangladesh has wisely used this opportunity to secure greater economic concessions from India, especially transit to Nepal and Bhutan.

But given the vagaries of India-Bangladesh relations, some scepticism would not be out of place. It is important for India to make haste and make the pipeline operational as soon as possible, beforepolitical grandstanding can cause any setbacks.

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