Pipeline politics behind India-Burma rapprochement

We recently noted the new rapprochement between India and Burma, traditional rivals, which has worked to the detriment of indigenous groups in the remote rainforest straddling the border, heretofore able to play the two powers off against each other to win some local autonomy. Now it seems, as usual, the international reconciliation is lubricated with hydrocarbons. Despite an international boycott, India is hoping to build a pipeline to import Burmese natural gas. Bangladesh is exploiting its position between the two countries to try to wrest trade concessions in exchange for allowing the pipeline to cross its territory. This AFP story (online at the Democratic Voice of Burma website) doesn’t say so, but what makes the Bangladesh route so essential is that the only alternative would be through the remote jungle border to the north, the domain of armed indigenous separatist movements which would be certain to impede construction…

Bangladesh wants more talks on tri-nation gas pipeline

DHAKA, July 7 (AFP) – Dhaka Thursday called for India to return to talks on a proposed tri-nation pipeline after New Delhi said it was considering bypassing Bangladesh and importing gas directly from Myanmar.

Bangladesh declined to attend talks between Indian and Myanmar officials in New Delhi on Wednesday. India says Dhaka has sought trade concessions from New Delhi in return for letting the pipeline through its territory, something which the Indian government has objected to… India’s Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who met Myanmar’s Energy Minister Lun Thi, said after the meeting Wednesday that a panel would examine the possibility of direct gas imports from Mynamar by ship or a pipeline bypassing Bangladesh. However, he added New Delhi would try to resolve the matter with Dhaka as the shortest pipeline route was through Bangladesh. In January, the three countries agreed in principle to cooperate in gas exploration and an overland pipeline project. The project is expected to yield 600 million dollars in investment to Bangladesh, besides annual “wheeling charges of 100 million dollars as well as financial benefits to Bangladesh energy firms.”

See our last post on Burma.