According to newspapers reports, the shareholders of the Tapi Pipeline Company have signed an agreement to invest $200 million in the next phase of the gas pipeline project, covering feasibility of the engineering plans, environmental issues and social safeguards. The studies will lead the partner countries to reach a conclusion and manage risks and investment involved in the project, which will link giant Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan with energy-starved Pakistan and India. Turkmengas, the state energy firm of Turkmenistan, is the main shareholder of the TAPI Pipeline Company, which has been mandated to carry out the project. The Afghan Gas Enterprise, Pakistan’s Inter State Gas Systems and GAIL India are the other shareholders of the company.The agreement was signed in Ashgabat where the senior government officials of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and representatives of the Asian Development Bank were present.
According to a bank official, the building of the $10-billion gas pipeline project, involving four countries, is a challenge for the shareholders as the pipeline passes through Helmand province of Afghanistan whichis the most violent area in that country. When completed, the pipeline will ensure a supply of 33 billion cubic meters of gas a year. However, the establishment of an underground pipeline through the toughest territory in Afghanistanwill remain a challenge for all the partner countries. Earlier, the ADB was able to laydown infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including a power transmission lines from Uzbekistan to Kabul and a railway track in north of the country. Under the current plan, the pipeline should be operational in four years by overcoming the security risks. Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves and it has started building its part of the 1,814 kilometer pipeline, as it wants to ease its dependence on Russia and China. However, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India have yet to begin work on their parts of the project.
It is hoped that the completion of the project will ensure delivery of long-term natural gas supplies to run the wheels of industries both in Pakistan and India. The pipeline will set a classic example of the regional cooperation between the two countries which are the rivals in defense but partners in economy. On another note, the Pakistan Iran gas pipeline project has to be revived after the international sanctions are lifted on Tehran. There should be no excuse on the subject of economic development and it will be plausible to also bring India into the fold. Instead of fighting in the battlefields, both Pakistan and India should fight on the economic fronts.