TAPI gas pipeline project

India put its stamp on an energy lifeline that could redefine regional ties and wheel in new economic dynamics through a natural gas pipeline all the way from Turkmenistan in Central Asia to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. Oil minister Murli Deora, representing PM Manmohan Singh, who is away in Europe, joined presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan at a summit in Turkmen capital Ashgabat to sign the Inter-Governmental Agreement to formally join the US-backed project that could cost over $10 billion. Deora also utilized the presence of top Pakistani and Afghan leaders to remind that they need to address India’s concerns over physical security of the pipeline and uninterrupted gas supplies to make the project work. “There are issues that need to be addressed. We have to come to a decision regarding the price of gas, security of the pipeline, certainty of gas supply, transit fee and setting up of the consortium (for laying and operating the pipeline),” he told the summit. For good measure Deora added, “As a buyer, and being at the tail-end of the project, we have concerns that relate to the realities that surround us. Quite obviously, our goal is not merely the construction of the pipeline, but also continuous and uninterrupted flow of Turkman natural gas over several decades.” India has agreed to accept gas at the Turkman-Afghanistan border and will bank on the international composition of the consortium building the pipeline to ensure supply security through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
MEA officials attribute this to India’s commitment to the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. But there is no denying that the softer security stand is being taken in deference to the US backing for the project, which Washington wants as an alternative route for Central Asian gas bypassing the Russian pipelines network. For, in case of the Iran pipeline project, which is cheaper and easier to build, India has been playing hardball over similar issues and insisting Teheran delivers gas at Delhi’s doorstep. India also appears to be playing along Turkmenistan’s unwillingness to make up for any shortfall or disruption in gas supplies.

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