Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
INITIALLY, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was devised to enhance regional connectivity, energy and food security by sharing prosperity. It was also designed to pull out the struggling people from the blind alley of poverty and deprivation through further enhancing of communication connectivity, infrastructural development, capacity building measures and above all job generation.
Now CPEC has become one of the vital components of the rise of Asian Century in which regional energy resources may play a contributory role in achieving massive industrialization, socio-economic prosperity, optimal levels of de-carbonization and last but not the least greater access to regional markets. In this context, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline may play a central role in the days to come. Rapidly changing geopolitical and geostrategic trends lead towards revival of regionalism instead of declining globalization. So amalgamation of the CPEC & TPAI is must for greater regional connectivity.
Greater regional connectivity through the noble concept of “shared prosperity” is being carried out in the world through different mega projects/regional corporations/economic corridors in different continents. The CPEC and TAPI are the prime examples of regional energy corridors in Central Asia and Asian regions. Turkmenistan is also the part of China’s global initiative i.e. One Belt & One Road (BRI) and the CPEC is the flagship project of the BRI too, so “consent of interest” is there to move forward for the early execution of the long awaited gas pipeline of the TAPI.
Moreover, ongoing peace process between Taliban and the Afghan government and the US immediate imposition of sever economic and banking sanctions on Iran has once again brightened the prospects of China’s support for the further development of the TAPI in the region which may be completed even in the ongoing projects of the CPEC. In the past even China showed great interest to start its own version of the TAPI gas pipeline to be connected with its various regions for the easy and smooth supplies of the energy resources. In near past, China formally approached the Pakistani authorities and submitted a proposal for a China-Turkmenistan pipeline that had to cross several Central Asian mountain ranges. It would be cheaper and easier for China to build desired gas pipeline from Pakistan’s territory to cross the Karakoram ranges to its western border. Consequently, the government of Pakistan shard Chinese proposal with Turkmenistan where it is currently passing through an evaluation process.
On its part, Pakistan has already signed the host country agreement to allow formally the laying and passing of the TAPI gas pipeline through its territory and facilitating India to connect it near the Fazilka district. Both the countries are now facing tremendous pressure for the early completion of the TAPI gas pipeline. Financial constraint has become one the most important factors in its delays. The only way-out is joining of the CPEC which will provide win-win and befitting propositions for all the countries especially Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan. It would be a wise decision of both the countries to approach Chinese authorities to include the TAPI gas pipeline in the ongoing project of the CPEC which is indeed a workable proposition. The 1,800km-long pipeline, which begins from the Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan, passes through Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan, moves through Pakistan via Quetta and Multan and concludes at Fazilka in India would be part of the CPEC.
Pakistan has completed the entire preparatory works (survey, mapping, soil tests, land acquisition etc.) required ahead of launching the civil work for laying the pipeline. China has serious concerns about the likelihood of interruptions in the smooth transportation of oil and gas shipping tankers towards China from Africa and the Gulf region through the Strait of Malacca in relation to attacks by the pirates or terrorists, as 80 percent of oil used in China goes through shipping lines of the Strait of Malacca. China desires for reduction of its dependency on the Strait of Malacca and has been making efforts for the development of alternative transit routes. In this connection, Pakistan has been in the position of bridging the gap by making available the possible shortest transit route for the shipping of energy. China has been looking for alternate prospects to safeguard its energy supplies. In this regard, Chinese participation in the TAPI gas pipeline and optimal utility of Gwadar may help monitor the Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) and further enhance bilateral trade between the two countries. Moreover, the government of Turkmenistan has also shown keen interest to join the CPEC.
CPEC & TAPI gas pipelines are game and fate changer for the region as well as all the participating countries. The ideal combination of both will enhance energy as well as food security in the regions. TAPI 1800km has now entered into a new phase after arriving in Afghanistan. The pipeline will link the regions of Central Asia and South Asia and transport up to 33 bcm of natural gas. Turkmen gas will help cover the growing need for blue fuel in Pakistan, where by 2030 the needs could jump up by half. The pipeline will also reduce the constant shortage of energy resources in transit Afghanistan.
CPEC & TAPI have strategic importance, utilities, productivities and durability to achieve greater regional peace and prosperity in the days to come. Successful completion of both mega projects would provide crucial inputs to achieve a stable and sustainable growth patterns for all the participatory countries. CPEC & TAPI would boast the regional economies and open up unlimited avenues of prosperity. It would be a win-win situation for the entire region. Being a prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI, I would like to suggest that Chinese government should think out of the box to facilitate early completion of the TAPI gas pipeline as its sustainable partner. Most of the development of the TAPI has been completed but inclusion of China will definitely boost its strategic orientation and optimal utility in the days to come.
Moreover, working relations between the CPEC & TAPI would be an ideal combination for future regional connectivity, socio-economic prosperity, energy & food security, massive industrialization, new job generation and above all trustworthy political understanding in the days to come. To conclude CPEC & TAPI future cooperation, coordination and collaboration is the way forward for achieving dreams of a qualitative life in the days to come. Moreover, combination of CPEC & TAPI would give a comparative advantage to China as well as Pakistan to further inroads to socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic orbits of the Central Asia Region (CAR).