Two weeks later, on Dec. 9, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj, at the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad. The two discussed the possibility of expanding their countries’ mutual economic cooperation, particularly in regard to Iran exporting natural gas to India. Subsequently, on Dec. 28, the Iranian minister of economic affairs and finance met with Swaraj and signed a 73-article agreement to expand bilateral cooperation, and particularly in the field of energy.
The $4.5 billion project to pump Iranian natural gas to India envisages the export of 31.5 million cubic meters a day via an undersea pipeline originating from Chabahar Port in southeastern Iran, traveling through the Sea of Oman to Ras al-Jafan on the Omani coast, and after traversing the Arabian Sea, ending at Porbandar in South Gujarat in India.
The project, known as the Middle East to India Deepwater Pipeline (MEIDP), is slated to be completed in two years. According to Subodh Kumar Jain, director of South Asia Gas Enterprise Pvt. Ltd., which came up with the idea of an underwater project, the 1,200- to 1,300-kilometer pipeline is the best energy option for India. Iran, which has already started building a pipeline from Turkmenistan to its Chabahar port, has plans for a gas swap with Turkmenistan and to then export the gas to India via MEIDP. New Delhi has already agreed to finance and develop Chabahar Port in preparation for this arrangement.
India has strong incentives to engage in serious energy cooperation with Iran, which holds the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves. Experts say India’s natural gas demand will double to 517 million cubic meters a day by 2021. Indeed, energy analysts estimate that India will become the world’s second-largest energy consumer sometime in the next 30 years.