India seems to hold the upper-hand over Iran in a dispute over payments for crude oil shipments that has been rumbling for over six months.
Iran supplies India with 12-14 per cent of its total imports, making it India’s second biggest provider after Saudi Arabia. But a payments dispute has left India owing debts estimated at anywhere between $2-6 billion. In effect, this means India has been importing Iranian oil on credit since December 2010.
Pakistan is to become a key buyer of Iranian natural gas at a time when relations with Washington are at their most strained in recent years.
Work on extending the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline will begin in the next six months and is set to be complete by 2014, according to Asim Hussain, the Pakistani natural resources minister. Some 1,100 km of the 2,700 km pipeline has already been completed on the Iranian side of the border, stretching from the South Pars field to the frontier with Pakistan.
In the immediate aftermath of the Japanese quake and beginning of the nuclear crisis, we wrote that the responses of the China and India, which are both planning major investment into new nuclear plants, was much more pro-nuclear than that of Western governments.
But now both have changed position. China performed a near U-turn on Wednesday when it abruptly announced a freeze on approvals for planned plants. Two days later, India has similarly changed tack, although in a less dramatic manner, by calling a for a review of the country’s nuclear safety rules.
India’s Nuclear Power Corporation is a sleepy public utility that runs 17 atomic plants not very efficiently. Last year, it made headlines for the wrong reasons, when an act of apparent sabotage at one plant put the whole country on high alert. Prime minister Manmohan Singh also frequently laments that Asia’s third largest economy only produces just 3 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power.
Areva, France’s state-owned nuclear power company, wants to change all that. Amid a $9bn deal with NPCIL, it has big ambitions for the Indian giant, possibly bigger than the company has for itself. It’s offering NPCIL investment opportunities in its global mining operations, which span more than half a dozen countries from Niger to Kazakhstan.