"The two prime ministers discussed the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and reaffirmed their commitment to sincerely and seriously pursue the project for its successful completion," a Pakistani statement said.

 

Fruitful talks

   

The statement followed talks between Shaukat Aziz, the Pakistani prime minister, and Manmohan Singh, his Indian counterpart, on Wednesday on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in New Delhi.

 

The two leaders were satisfied with progress made in technical talks between officials of the two countries, that have gone on for years, the statement said.

 

The pipeline project, which aims to feed the growing energy needs of the subcontinent, has made slow progress due to political tensions between India and Pakistan and differences between New Delhi and Tehran over the latter's nuclear programme.

   

Washington wants India not to go ahead with the project.

 

But New Delhi has stayed the course, despite voting against Iran's nuclear plans at global bodies. The three countries are expected to sign an agreement on pricing in June that will help the pipeline project take off.

   

Aziz said the pipeline would create "linkages and interdependencies" between India and Pakistan and strengthen a slow peace process between the countries which have gone to war three times in the last 60 years.

   

"That is why this is more than just meeting the energy security needs of India and Pakistan," Aziz told a news conference.