Almost 25 years after its inception, finally physical work has been started on the $ 10 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline Project. Afghan, Pakistani and Indian leaders recently took part in the ground breaking ceremony of the 1,814 kilometres project that is due to be completed by 2019.
- The pipeline, which will pass through Herat and Balochistan before reaching the Indian Punjab border, and will draw from the world’s second largest natural gas field of Galkynysh, comes full of promise.
Benefits of India:
- It will bring India much needed energy at competitive pricing, and could easily supply about 15% of India’s projected needs by the time it is completed in the 2020s.
- Energy is a growing need, and even if India is able to source energy from other countries like Iran and further afield, both the proximity and abundance of Turkmenistan’s reserves, that rank fourth in the world, will make it an attractive proposition.
- This project also gives India an opportunity to secure its interest in Central Asia.
- TAPI’s success will also ensure that India, Pakistan and Afghanistan find ways of cooperating on other issues as well.
Benefits for other countries:
- Holding 4% of the gas reserves of the world, presently, Turkmenistan exports gas to only very few countries. But, with the TAPI pipeline, it will be able to diversify its exports to nations like India, Pakistan etc. Turkmenistan will also earn a lot of revenue by these exports.
- The potential extension of the pipeline to the Gwadar Port in Pakistan will also enable Pakistan to export gas to several countries, thereby increasing its share of revenue.
- Since the pipeline passes through Afghanistan, it will earn some revenue too in the name of transit fees.
- This project could easily supply a quarter of Pakistan’s gas needs.
- It will also reopen a historic route that reconnects South Asia to Central Asia, in the way it was before the British Empire sealed it off.
Challenges before the project:
- The TAPI project crosses Afghanistan and Pakistan, the former deeply unstable and of uncertain future, the latter plagued by terrorist incidents and infested with militant groups that may find a gas pipeline easy pickings. Ensuring the security of those involved in the construction of the pipeline and then extending that security along its length once operational is going to be a challenge for all the signatories.
- After its completion, maintenance in the presence of terrorist elements in Afghanistan and in the restive areas of Pakistan will also be a challenge.
- Another critical issue is the fraught relations of Pakistan with India and Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan has mind-boggling reserves of natural gas and it needs to export this precious commodity. Countries like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing a severe energy crisis and badly need such a resource to give an impetus to their ailing economies. It is important for these countries to increase cooperation and take decisive action against the terrorists who are the main hurdle to any peace and development process. If utilized properly, the gas reserves can change the destiny of the people of these countries. It is a win-win situation for all stakeholder states and they must make up for lost time to explore this channel of prosperity.