TAPI gas pipeline project brings new hope | By Pathik Hasan 

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TAPI gas pipeline project brings new hope

Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is a regional connectivity project for supplying gas to fulfil the public demand from Turkmenistan to India’s Fajilka (Punjab).

It a great regional initiative proposed by ADB and taken by four regional countries. The TAPI gas pipeline seems to a bridge between South Asia and Central Asia.

The regional connectivity gas pipeline will supply natural gas from the Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh Gas Field through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India.

Construction on the project in Turkmenistan was inaugurated to construct the gas pipeline on 13 December 2015, work on the Afghan section began in February 2018, and work on the Pakistani section was planned to commence in December 2018.

The TAPI pipeline is expected to carry 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The 1,814-kilometer gas pipeline stretches from Galkynesh, the world’s second-largest gas field, to the Indian city of Fazilka, near the Pakistan border.Work on the TAPI project in Afghanistan began in February 2016. The 617 km gas pipeline was planned to pass through Afghanistan.

But due to internal situation, security in Afghanistan and India-Pakistan tension as well as regional issues the connectivity project wasn’t implemented. There was a speculation whether the connectivity project will be completed finally at all. Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15, 2021 increased the speculation.

Now the speculation is over. The region is going to see the implementation of the connectivity project that may bring prosperity for the region.

Work on Afghanistan’s part of the TAPI gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and India via Pakistan is about to begin soon.

Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, has said that work on Afghanistan’s part of the TAPI gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan-Pakistan India will resume soon.

He made the remarks at a news conference after a meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov in Kabul on 31 October 2021.

Muttaqi said the two sides discussed strengthening political and economic ties during the Turkmen foreign minister’s visit.

“Important issues like TAPI, rail connectivity and electricity have been discussed,” he said. We have discussed strengthening the projects that have already started.

Pakistan is very interested to complete the project. Afghanistan, Pakistan including India would benefit from the gas pipeline connectivity project. Afghanistan’s interim government has already given the green signal to complete the project.

Basically, this gas project would fulfil the demand of energy, electricity and gas in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The project was expected to create 2,000 new employment opportunities.

Implementation of the TAPI gas pipeline project was beneficial for the entire region, with Afghanistan alone to get $1 billion as transit fee and royalty.

Pakistan will be the main customer of Turkmen gas. Pakistan has long suffered from energy shortages that affect families and businesses alike. Load shedding is a very common term in Pakistan now.

That is why the supply of gas and electricity has become an integral part of the election manifestos of political parties.
The project will bring clean fuel to the growing economies of India. It will provide energy-hungry India gas to run its power plants.

TAPI’s uninterrupted gas flow will be extremely important for India’s energy sector.There is energy and gas crisis in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

This could help to fulfil the growing need of the people. India, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been facing energy crisis. TAPI has the potential to solve the energy woes of Pakistan and India.

The pipeline is expected to facilitate a unique level of trade and cooperation across the region, as well as support peace and security between the four countries. More than 1.5 billion people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are expected to benefit from the long-term energy security provided by the project.

Also, the project is expected to increase Turkmenistan’s revenue through gas sales. Afghanistan and Pakistan will also benefit from transit fees.

Although Taliban’s Kabul takeover on August 15, 2021 has changed the geo-politics in the region, there are some issues where all regional countries can work together for ensuring the mutual interest in the region.

Although India was an active stakeholder in this project, now India’s position in this regard is not clear.

But India should remain in this project for its own interest. There might have some bilateral problems in India-Pakistan, but that is not issue. All regional States including India and Pakistan can work closely in the sector of trade and connectivity for ensuring the common greater interest.

If this gas project can be extended to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan in the near future, all regional actors would benefit from the connectivity project. It is true that resumption of TAPI pipeline project in Afghanistan brings a new hope for the region.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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