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Iran and Pakistan sign gas export agreement

Iran and Pakistan formally signed yesterday an export deal which commits the Islamic republic to supplying its eastern neighbour with natural gas from 2014.

The contract is the latest step in completing a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan within the next four years.

“This is a happy day,” Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Javad Ouji told reporters at the contract signing ceremony in Tehran. “After decades of negotiations, we are witnessing today the execution of the agreement… to export more than 21 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from 2014 to Pakistan,” he added.

He said that from today, Iran will start building the next 300-kilometre leg of the pipeline from the southeastern city of Iranshahr to the Pakistani border, through the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Iran has already constructed 907km of the pipeline between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, which will carry natural gas from Iran’s giant South Pars field. Pakistan’s Deputy Energy Minister Kamran Lashari, who was present at the signing ceremony, said Islamabad will conduct a one-year feasibility study for building its section of the pipeline.

It will then “take three years for constructing the 700km pipeline” from the Iranian border to the Pakistani city of Nawabshah, he added. The pipeline was originally planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter pulled out of the project last year. Pakistan plans to use the gas for its power sector.

India left out. Iran and Pakistan ink $7.5 billion Pipeline deal

India left out. Iran and Pakistan ink $7.5 billion Pipeline deal

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and Iran on Friday signed a “sovereign guarantee” agreement paving the way for the completion of a 7.5-billion-dollar gas pipeline project within the next four years.

The 900-kilometre (560-mile) pipeline will be between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, near the border with Pakistan, and will carry natural gas from Iran’s South Pars field.

Pakistan petroleum minister Syed Naveed Qamar told reporters after a signing ceremony in Islamabad that originally the pipeline was planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter withdrew from the project last year.
“I am extremely pleased that after 17 long years this project is finally starting. It would help us generate energy for our industrial growth,” Qamar said of the Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) between the two countries.
Qamar added that “Iran had assured us that they would complete the project between two-and-half to three years, ahead of schedule.”

The imported natural gas — whose volume is estimated at nearly 20 percent of Pakistan?s current gas production — will be dedicated to the power sector.

Electricity generation through gas would result in “significant” annual savings when compared with other fuels, a petroleum ministry statement said.

Supply is contracted for a period of 25 years, the statement said, renewable for another five years.
“While all other CPs (Conditions Precedent) of the GSPA are completed, the project is now ready to enter into its implementation phase,” the ministry statement said.

“As per current project implementation schedule, the first gas flow is targeted by end 2014.
“The capital cost for the Pakistan section is estimated at 1.65 billion dollars.”

Freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir heats up

Freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir heats up

SRINAGAR, India — Militant violence is surging in Indian-controlled Kashmir after years of declines, officials say, warning of increased insurgent infiltration from Pakistan and a bloody summer ahead.

Nearly everyday, the crackle of gunfire and the roar of mortars can be heard somewhere in the towns and forests of the scenic Himalayan region, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan but divided between them.

Most recently, Indian soldiers have been hunting Muslim militants for more than a week in a thickly forested area northwest of Srinagar, the region’s main city. The operation, one of the largest in years, has already left 11 suspected rebels and four soldiers dead amid the rugged terrain, said Indian army spokesman Col. Vineet Sood.

On Friday, police said that suspected rebels threw a grenade at government forces as they fired rubber bullets to disperse nearly 150 anti-India protesters in Srinagar, wounding four security forces and one civilian.

Hemant Lohia, a top police officer, said two of the injured troops were in critical condition.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The army is gearing up to meet new challenges as this summer is going to be a hot summer in terms of security,” India’s Defense Minister A.K. Antony recently told reporters. Summers have traditionally been a time of increased fighting in Kashmir, as snow melts in Himalayan mountain passes and militants are able to slip across from the Pakistani-controlled portion of the territory.

Police say they have arrested 10 Kashmiri teenagers just this month — six allegedly trying to cross to the Pakistani side for arms training and four looking for weapons training on the Indian side.

According to police records, 76 suspected militants and 23 members of the police and the army have been killed in the first four months this year. Thirteen civilians have also died in the conflict.

During the same period last year, 53 militants, 15 members of various security forces and five civilians were killed.

The spike in militant violence follows a decline that began in 2004, after India and Pakistan initiated a peace process, that reduced bilateral tensions but made little headway in settling the two nation’s core dispute over Kashmir. The violence could complicate efforts by the South Asian rivals to restart the peace talks that were frozen after 10 Pakistan-based militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008.

Analysts say massive street protests that roiled Indian Kashmir over the past two years may have paved the way for the resurgent militant attacks.

The protests were sparked by local issues, such as a state government decision to transfer land to a Hindu shrine, but quickly became the region’s largest-ever protests against Indian rule, often bringing tens of thousands of people into the streets. Rock-throwing would lead to government forces firing tear gas and even live ammunition, leading to pitched clashes. Overall, more than 60 protesters have been killed and hundreds more wounded.

Meanwhile, Indian authorities launched a massive arrest campaign, hauling in hundreds of protesters.

The crackdown “is radicalizing the situation,” said Noor Mohammed Baba, a professor at the political science department of Kashmir University. “The scenario becomes more favorable for radical elements to take over.”

Security forces, with long experience at fighting militants, have had more trouble neutralizing street protests.

Until there is forward movement toward resolving the festering Kashmir dispute, it will be difficult to end the protests, analysts say.

“They don’t fear armed militants as much as youth in the streets now,” Baba said.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have fought two wars over Kashmir and, since 1989, Muslim militants have fought in Indian-controlled Kashmir for independence or merger with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in what seemed like relentless cycles of fighting and crackdowns.

India accuses Pakistan of funding and training militants in the Pakistani-held Kashmir, and helping them slip over to the Indian side to fight.

Islamabad denies that, saying it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the rebels. Violence surges in Indian Kashmir after decline By AIJAZ HUSSAIN (AP)

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