NEW DELHI – India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari will meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Ashgabat during the inauguration of the $10-billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, The Hindu newspaper reported.
The Indian vice president will travel to Ashgabat from December 11-13, as the inauguration of the mega project will take place on December 13, with all three leaders hosted by Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov. The ceremony will come just days after the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad where all TAPI countries agreed that they will improve connectivity in the region.
The TAPI project has been discussed by Turkmenistan, which has the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas since 1995. The project has been stalled over the years over gas price negotiations, transit fees, and the problems of security. Tensions between Pakistan and India only added to the problems, and despite signing the gas purchase agreement in 2010, the talks did not go forward.
Quoting unidentified officials, the paper reported that security in Afghanistan would remain the most serious concern. “This project won’t work unless the security situation in Afghanistan is stable. Particularly with the splitting of Taliban, rise of the Islamic State, and Kabul’s inability to exert control in the western and southern parts, which does not look likely to be resolved anytime soon,” said Nandan Unnikrishnan, a Central Asia expert at the Observer research Foundation.
The TAPI pipeline is expected to be completed by 2020, although operationalisation could take a few years more, and is expected to transport about 90 million standard cubic meters of gas per day. The 1800km pipeline project would provide energy to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for 30 years, with Turkmengaz extracting the natural gas at a shared cost from the Galkynysh field, the world’s second-largest reservoir of natural gas.
Over the years, the TAPI line has received support from the US, which was keen on seeing countries in the region use an alternative route to Iran under international sanctions at the time. With the breakthrough in P-5+1 talks with Iran earlier this year, India may pursue both routes, with the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline due to connect to Russia through the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) as well.
NEO Monitoring Report