Expert: TAPI to strengthen independence of Turkmen gas supplies to world market

Kazakhstan, Astana, 14 March / Trend, D. Mukhtarov /

Implementation of the "Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India" (TAPI) gas pipeline project will strengthen the independence of Turkmenistan and its gas supplies to the world market, according to a political analyst and expert Yuri Sigov based in Washington.

"If the TAPI project is implemented, the independence of Turkmenistan and its gas supplies to the world market will increase dramatically," Yuri Sigov told Trend on Thursday via email.

According to him, in theory, undertaking the construction of a gas pipeline from Central Asia to Pakistan and India seems to be quite reasonable and technologically feasible. India today is one of the most important Asian "economic locomotives" capable of consuming vast amounts of natural resources, most importantly, natural gas.

In his view, even if there is a constant rivalry between India and Pakistan, the two countries are quite able to agree on pipeline issues. Pakistan would be able to both receive transit payments (at a very large sum) and use some of the gas for its own purposes.

"India will have received a reliable source of gas for at least for the next 30-35 years for its fast-growing industry. Turkmenistan (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are planned to be connected to the project in the future) would get from Delhi a large and reliable supply consumer of goods as well as a guaranteed source of foreign exchange unencumbered by any political or other strategic factors, " the expert said.

He also said that the main benefit of the project (at least this has been consistently voiced in the last couple of years) is an opportunity to contribute to the stabilization of Afghanistan through laying of the pipeline from Turkmenistan to India.

"there are intentions to "drag" Kabul to closer regional cooperation through the implementation of this project and subsequently prevent the possibility of reviving the Taliban's influence if the economic situation in the country gets better, including thanks to this pipeline (1700 km of the pipeline will pass through Afghanistan)," Sigov said.

As previously reported, the agreement on the construction of the TAPI gas pipeline was signed by all four participating countries in December 2010. The main guarantor of the agreement is the Asian Development Bank.

"It is important that after lengthy negotiations, India and Pakistan agreed to assume all risks of Afghan transit, meaning that the official Kabul could simply ignore any price effects that would have been possible for Turkmen gas when crossing the Afghan border. Islamabad and Delhi were willing to pay for everything," the expert said.

He also recalled that Turkmenistan decided to actively promote the TAPI project by making public presentations of the project in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. America, under "the Afghan cover" actually gave the "green light" to the project, especially considering the upcoming withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and the necessity of raising the country's economy.

"From the Turkmen point of view, TAPI pipeline construction would mean the highest principle of foreign policy of the republic - maximum use of new routes to the south and the west in order to reduce the dependence of Ashgabat on gas exports gas through the north, the Russian route. Also, political stability in Afghanistan, which is the direct geographical neighbor of Turkmenistan, is more than beneficial for Ashgabat, especially following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country," Sigov said.

He also recalled that Turkmenistan hopes to lay the gas pipeline under the bottom of the Caspian Sea on Turkmenbashi-Baku route (its length may reach 290 kilometers) to access European gas markets, bypassing Russian territory. So far, according to Sigov, Turkmen gas will not reach Ukraine or Europe, as Russia side wouldn't let Turkmenistan sell gas there directly.

"For this reason, the main task of Ashgabat is access to both Europe via Azerbaijan, and the Asian markets (two lines of the pipeline to China are already operating through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and two pipelines go to Iran.) If, the TAPI project is implemented, the independence of Turkmenistan and its gas supplies to the world market will increase dramatically, something the Turkmen leadership is aiming for," Sigov said.

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