COMMENDABLE developments have been observed recently on Asia’s harbinger of peace and prosperity line, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline where the ground breaking ceremonies was organized border cities of both Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. With the presence of Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and President of Afghanistan Mr. Ashraf Ghani, and officials from India, the inauguration was held for this multibillion dollar 1,814 kilometre gas pipeline that will bring hope to the energy demands of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and beyond. The first part of the launch was in Turkmenistan in its ancient city of Merry and was followed by second ceremony in Afghanistan province of Herat. Turkmenistan holds the world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves and the long awaited pipeline was in doldrums since its conception as a result of the instability in Afghanistan. As a result, there is a strong consensus of having the pipeline heavily guarded through the war-torn Afghanistan.
TAPI is meant to export up to 33 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas per year to the connected countries. The pipeline is considered to be ‘golden’ opportunity for the country like Afghanistan where the lawlessness and sheer poverty has caused huge disparities. The pipeline will bring along jobs, new avenues of work and hence prosperity and development throughout the barren region of Afghanistan. The pipeline project is much anticipated as it will entangle the countries in to the peace politics which is a rare show of cooperation between Pakistan and India and Pakistan and Afghanistan. TAPI is also in strong competition between another much apprised energy project of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, as it is facing international and regional pressure. The project which will endure more seriousness, willingness and whose cooperating parties have the ability to manoeuvre the challenges faced, will see the light of competition in spite of the sheer competition or pressure.
TAPI gas pipeline has remained in the process of the discussion since 2001 and is aimed to bring the gas from the Gylkynish and other gas fields in Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and then to India. Asian Development Bank is providing the coordinating facility of the entire project. Since the 2001, there was several rounds of deliberations amongst the governments related to various technical and preparatory phase. However in November 2014, TAPI Pipeline Company Limited (TPCL) was incorporated which laid the ground work for the technical studies and preparation of information memorandum was signed where the ADB became the Transaction Advisory completed the work with different technical studies required for the preparation of the Bidding document.
After this phase, during the 22nd TAPI steering committee meeting when Ashgabat proposed to become the Consortium Leader and the committee unanimously endorsed the decision. The TPCL project office was established in Dubhai and the company has been made operation. Turkmenistan is heading the company and leading the entire project. One of the larger breakthrough was achieved when the stone laying Ceremony of the project was laid closer to the natural gas field wherein the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, President Asharf Ghani and Vice President of India Muhammad Hamid Ansari was present along with the President of Turkmenistan. Now to the operation work has been started this February with the work both in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan side. TAPI is in its practical phase in Pakistan as the basic procedures and surveys have been inaugurated in last year in March.
TAPI has been proven as the lifeline for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and the energy web is brining the regional actors in a close net manner that this project will generate far-reaching effect on the security, stability and development of the region. The countries connected into this maze of prosperity were earlier finding it difficult to adjust in such a beneficial setting keeping in view their age old rivalries and geostrategic driven political games wherein they were locked into their positions. TAPI has brought them to move away from their old aged syndromes of insecurities and selfishness to broader levels of connectivity and engagement in a complex correlation. The outcome of this growing interconnectedness will determine the course of the future of economics, politics, economic cooperation, security status of the entire region. With growing economies of Pakistan and India, with shortage of energy, TAPI is a better, cheaper and viable option that has made the warring parties to sit together on the table for a joint effort.
At the dawn of the renewed energy world order, there is strong need to secure our future for upcoming generations through energy conservation, building peace and prosperity for the conflict prone region. The leadership of Turkmenistan is visionary and deserve the praise for all the efforts and consistent approach towards the development of this revolutionary project of the history. The visionary leadership also has the sense of understanding that to keep the borders safe and secure, they will have to take some bold decisions to speed up the process of development work on TAPI. Once this will be successful, we will see the effects to the entire countries of the region. This will also help resolve the instability in Afghanistan.
—The writer is president, Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and President, Pakistan-Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Friendship Forum.