Pakistan seeks supply of petrol from India

New Delhi: Soon after removing restrictions on import of goods from India, Pakistan has sought immediate supplies of petrol from the country to meet widening deficit. "I discussed importing petrol from India during talks with Petroleum Secretary G C Chaturvedi here," Pakistan Secretary for Petroleum and Natural Resources Muhammad Ejaz Chaudhry said on the sidelines of the 7th Asia Gas Partnership Summit here.

Pakistan, which has shortage of fuel, is looking at starting petrol imports from India using tankers as early as next month but issues of quality and specification need to be sorted out before that. New Delhi has agreed, in-principle, to supply fuel to Pakistan from Bhatinda, where Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd is about to commission a refinery. Also, Indian Oil Corp (IOC) has a fuel depot at Bhatinda which can supply petrol and other products to Pakistan.

Pakistan, Chaudhry said, was keen on importing other fuels as well but for the time being it has requirement of only petrol. Officials of the two countries will meet next month to finalise modalities. The biggest hurdle is the fuel specification ? while Pakistan sells Euro-II grade fuel, Indian refineries produce petrol and diesel meeting Euro-III & IV standards. Chaudhry said Pakistan will call on India if it needs diesel and jet fuel in future. "When we need jet fuel or diesel, our first port of call will be India."

While the fuel exports, to begin with, will be through tankers, a dedicated pipeline may be built in future. Recently, Pakistan liberalised imports, lifting restrictions on all but 1,200 products. It is also expected to give India the Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status that would help normalise trade by ending huge restriction. India gave MFN status to Pakistan in 1996. Chaudhry also discussed the transit fee to be paid for the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

Officials said India has to pay transit fee to Pakistan and Afghanistan for allowing passage of gas that it wants to buy from Turkmenistan. Similarly, Pakistan has to pay transit fee to Afghanistan. "We have agreed to have a uniform fee. Pakistan has agreed that it will accept the same fee that India agrees to pay Afghanistan," an official said. Turkmenistan has already finalised the gas sale purchase agreement with all the participating countries for the USD 7.6 billion pipeline project, which will supply 3.2 billion cubic feet of gas daily.

Chaudhry said Pakistan was also keen to import gas from India as well. State-owned GAIL?s newly-commissioned gas pipeline from India?s west coast to Bhatinda in Punjab is barely 45 km from the Pakistan border and it can be extended to Lahore. Gas in its liquid form, Liquefied Natural Gas or LNG, can be imported at Dahej or Hazira import terminals in Gujarat and then moved to Pakistan border using the recently commissioned Dahej-Vijaipur-Dadri-Bawana-Nangal-Bhatinda pipeline.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too mentioned such a possibility in his inaugural address at the 7th Asia Gas Partnership Summit here. "The 2,000-km long Dahej-Vijaipur-Bawana-Nangla/Bhatinda pipeline of GAIL has been completed recently. I understand that it has the potential to be extended up to the border with Pakistan," he said.