Turkmenistan will promote the implementation of a stalled 1,800km gas pipeline that will pass through Afghanistan, Pakistan and culminate in India (TAPI), a joint statement released at the end of a China-led regional conference on Afghanistan said on Friday, a move Islamabad has said, in the same declaration, it would support.
The announcement was part of “The Tunxi Initiative of the Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan on Supporting Economic Reconstruction in and Practical Cooperation with Afghanistan”.
It was released on Friday after the “Third Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Among the Neighbouring Countries of Afghanistan” was held in Tunxi, in eastern China’s Anhui province on Thursday.
Foreign ministers or high-level representatives from China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan attended the meeting, which is said to be Beijing’s effort to expand influence in Afghanistan.
The release of the statement in China coincides with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s four-day visit to Turkmenistan capital, Ashgabat, starting Friday – the first-ever by an Indian head of state to the country.
The probable resumption of work on the TAPI gas pipeline was included in the statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry, which lays down the roadmap for the neighbouring countries to help the Taliban-led Afghanistan to start an economic recovery.
The work on the gas pipeline involving the four countries was mentioned in the joint statement under the category “Economy and Trade” assistance to Afghanistan. “Turkmenistan will develop trade and economic ties with Afghanistan, and continue to implement new joint projects in such important areas as energy, transport and communications, involving Afghan companies to these projects,” the joint statement said.
“In particular, Turkmenistan will promote the implementation of the construction of the transnational gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), which is an important aspect of trade and economic cooperation, and which will ensure the development and restoration of the social and economic infrastructure of Afghanistan,” the statement added.
Pakistan, under the category of “Energy” assistance to Afghanistan in the statement, said, it “…supports energy infrastructure projects for the integration of regional countries in terms of economic development, infrastructure and improvement in livelihoods”.
“Pakistan is working on mega projects such as CASA-1000 and TAPI to augment energy cooperation with Central Asia through Afghanistan,” the statement added. CASA-1000 is a power transmission project involving Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There is speculation in India whether Kovind’s visit would kick start work on the TAPI pipeline.
That now seems a possibility following Turkmenistan’s statement from China on implementing the TAPI gas pipeline.
A project framework was signed between the four countries in 2008.
Political instability and violence in Afghanistan, however, stalled its progress after a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Serhetabad in Turkmenistan in February, 2018.
“Also known as the Peace Pipeline and Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, the TAPI pipeline will begin in Turkmenistan and traverse Afghanistan to enter Pakistan and India,” the website Hydrocarbons-Technology.com said on the gas pipeline.
A stone-laying ceremony was held to commemorate the start of construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan section of the TAPI gas pipeline in December 2015 in Mary, Turkmenistan, near the Galkynysh gas field. Designed to serve for 30 years, the pipeline is expected to expected to transport 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year, the website report had said.
The pipeline, according to the website, will run through Kandahar and Herat highway in Afghanistan, for a length of 774km. It will cover 826km in Pakistan, across the cities of Quetta and Multan, finally terminating in Fazilka at the Indo-Pakistan border in Punjab region, India. The pipeline will initially transport 27bcm of natural gas a year, which will be increased to 33bcm after one year of operation.