New Delhi: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad on Monday inaugurated the much-delayed section of a $ 7.5 billion gas pipeline, this despite US pressure on Islamabad to back out of the project.
The $7 billion project has faced repeated delays since it was conceived in the 1990s. India was a part of the original plan when talks began in the 1990s but later withdrew. Pakistan has pursued the pipeline scheme as a way of alleviating severe energy shortages.
Zardari had flown in Chabhar along with a huge delegation and joined Ahmadinejad in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Pakistani section of the pipeline here near Pak-Iran border. The groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of work on the 781-km Pakistani section of the pipeline to be built at a cost of $ 1.5 billion.
Iran will provide a $ 500 million loan for the project. The pipeline on the Iranian side is almost complete. The two presidents together unveiled the plaque of the mega project terming it vital for the development of two neighbouring states.
Zardari, in his address at the event, termed the pipeline project as "very important" for Pakistan. He said the prosperity of Pakistan and Iran was inter-linked and the former was striving to become self-reliant.
He said the international community was unaware of the problems of regional countries and was not cognizant of appropriate solutions to many issues. The event was shown live on various Pakistani channels showing Zardari and Ahmadinejad shaking hands with various dignitaries as the ceremony got under way.
"Today is a historic day. The gas pipeline project is the beginning of a great work," Ahmadinejad said adding "The Westerners have no right to make any obstacles in the way of the project." The ceremony was attended by a large number of foreign dignitaries, ministers, members of parliament and political leaders from both the countries.
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman and the United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Mohammad Bin Dha'en Al Hameli also attended the event, Pakistan's state-run APP
news agency said.
With Additional Inputs From PTI