September 9, 2015
Tanchum: A Perplexing Signal on Iran’s South Asia Energy Policy
As high-ranking Indian officials continue to beat a path to Tehran to bolster Indo-Iranian energy cooperation and secure Iranian natural gas imports to India, one of Iran’s senior diplomats in South Asia sent a perplexing signal about the future delivery of Iranian gas to the Subcontinent. The curious comments were made by Iran’s ambassador in Dhaka, Abbas Vaezi. If representative of the current thinking of Iran’s policymakers, Vaezi’s comments could indicate a marked shift in Tehran’s plans to transport natural gas to India.
Speaking before the Diplomatic Correspondents’ Association, Bangladesh, on September 1, Vaezi proposed extending the Iran-Pakistan (IP) natural gas pipeline to Bangladesh. The ambassador’s proposal, widely reported in the Iranian press as well as in Bangladesh, is curious on several different accounts. Any extension of the IP pipeline to Bangladesh would have to cross a considerable swath of Indian territory. The air travel distance between Nawabshah, Pakistan, the current proposed endpoint for the IP pipeline, and the Bangladeshi border is more than 1,000 miles (1,609 km), most of which is across India. Such a route would not be feasible without Indian participation and Vaezi hinted that Tehran had already engaged New Delhi on the topic.