India mulls natural gas help for Pakistan

June 6, 2013 at 6:54 AM

NEW DELHI, June 6 (UPI) -- The Indian government is considering lending a natural gas hand to the Pakistani government as part of a "test case," an energy official said Thursday.

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif became Pakistan's prime minister this week. His is the first democratically elected government in Pakistani history.

A delegation from India said it would head Sunday to Lahore with an offer of natural gas to help Sharif's government cope with an energy crisis, The Indian Express reported Thursday.

Pakistan's aging infrastructure and energy sector mismanagement means most of the country lacks a reliable source of electricity.

An official from Gas Authority of India Ltd., known by its initials GAIL, said natural gas from an existing pipeline fed by Qatar could be extended to the border for Pakistan's benefit.

"This is a test case before we enter into an agreement with Pakistan for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline," a GAIL official said on condition of anonymity. "This is a small step to win its confidence."

Turkmen officials in early 2012 agreed to sell natural gas to Asian customers through the 1,050-mile TAPI pipeline. U.S. officials have expressed their support for the project, seen as a rival to similar plans for a natural gas pipeline backed by the Iranian government.

GAIL didn't specify a time frame for the pipeline extension.

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