Context

  • India will be hosting the next steering committee meeting of the proposed 1,814 kilometre-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.

The meeting

  • The decision has come during the sixth joint Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) meeting on trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation.
  • The meeting was followed by a meeting between visiting Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov and Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan.
  • “It is not just a commercial project, but one which will be a good foundation for providing peace and security in the region,” Meredov added.
  • India’s effort is to tap Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh gasfields, which are the fourth largest in the world.

What is TAPI gas pipeline?

  • TAPI is a 1680 km pipeline from Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India (TAPI).
  • It’ll become operational by 2018.
  • It will carry 90 million metric standard cubic meters a day for a 30 year period.
  • India has to pay a shipment fee to Pakistan and Afghanistan as the pipeline passes through these nations.

Route of the Pipeline

  • The pipeline starts from the Dauletabad Oil fields in Turkmenistan and will move into Afghanistan along a highway running from Herat to Kandahar.
  • It will then enter Pakistan via Quetta, Multan and from there to Fazilka (located at the Indo-Pak border) in India.
  • Turkmenistan holds 4 percent of the gas reserves of the world. It only exports gas to Russia, but with the TAPI pipeline, it will be able to expand its exports to nations like India, Pakistan etc.
  • Turkmenistan will be earning a lot of revenue by exporting gas through TAPI pipeline.
  • The potential extension of the pipeline to the Gwadar Port in Pakistan will enable Pakistan to export gas to several countries.
  • Afghanistan will earn transit fees as the pipeline passes through the country.

What is in for India?

  • India will be benefitting a lot as it will be receiving 38 million standard cubic meters of gas per day improving India’s energy security.
  • New opportunities to the development of gas and engineering industries of the countries will be involved in the project.
  • The project will also help to foster regional connectivity between the countries involved, thus helping in regional integration.

Obstacles to TAPI pipeline

  • Regional instability, especially in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
  • The planned route of the 1800 km pipeline will pass through 735 km of southern and western Afghanistan, regions which are centers of terrorism.
  • With the projected withdrawal of NATO (especially US) forces from Afghanistan, the ability of Afghanistan to maintain its security comes into question.
  • The pipeline will also pass through Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan Province, a region suffering from separatist and sectarian violence for the past 9 years.
  • Any unexpected rupture in Indo-Pakistan relationships can put the TAPI project into trouble.
  • Asian Development Bank has already provided a few million Dollars as technical assistance, however more money is required to finance this costly project, which is difficult to get as foreign investors (MNCs, oil companies) are wary of investing in the AF-PAK region.

Tapping the TAPI by 2017-18 or Not?

  • There have been disagreements between the stakeholders vis-à-vis the nature of the project execution with regard to a timeline monitoring system, pitched by Afghanistan but batted out by Pakistan.
  • Recently, there have been fresh technicality-based disagreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan over branches of the pipeline not being connected to its main route.
  • While Afghanistan wants the Pakistani territory section to be laid towards Peshawar (where a majority of Afghan refugees reside), Pakistan prefers that the branch be set in Lahore – given that the demand for natural gas is comparatively higher there.
  • Thus, the feasibility study has nearly concluded, but the approval hasn’t been passed due to the disagreement.
  • India’s policy formulations towards existing pipeline projects must come under greater scrutiny and compel decision makers to formulate policies in order to create a healthy balance between energy needs and national security priorities.
  • Harmonization of our security and geopolitical concerns on the one hand and energy needs on the other hand becomes necessary to make up for the lost opportunities in the past.
  • In an era where China is giving stiff competition to India in the race for energy resources, New Delhi’s policies must be geared up to remove impending hurdles and grab available opportunities.

 

 

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