WEB DESK: After more than 25 years in the making, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline has eventually moved a step closer to becoming a reality; the inauguration ceremony of the pipeline was held on December 13, 2015 in Turkmenistan with the heads of the governments of all four participating countries.
For Pakistan, IP and TAPI gas pipelines have long been part of the options to address the shortage of gas in the country. While both have been controversial for reasons like lack of security, regional relations and price, TAPI seems to have made to the agreement table.
The 1,800 kilometer and $10 billion TAPI pipeline is planned to transport 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Turkmenistans massive Galkynysh field to neighbouring South Asia. Slated to be completed by 2019, the pipeline will have a capacity of 33 billion cubic meters per year; it will provide Afghanistan with 14 million standard cubic meters a day of natural gas, while Pakistan and India will each receive 38 mm scmd.
The project has undoubtedly been much delayed; the first real development took place in November 2014 when ADB took on the role of transaction advisor to facilitate the construction of the pipeline, followed by August 2015 when the Turkmenistan finally assumed the role of the lead operator. This was followed by November 2015 when the Dragon Oil of Dubai claimed to invest in the project. Earlier, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total pulled out of TAPI due to falling crude oil prices and Turkmenistans insistence on controlling its gas reserves. Now the state-owned, Turkmengaz is the lead operator.
The regional significance of the pipeline is immense. While Turkmenistan sees the pipeline as a way of boosting and diversifying exports (moving beyond GCC countries), TAPI means fulfilment of energy need for energy-starved Pakistan and India. However, the insinuations of this mega projects are beyond the availability of natural gas in the country.
The pipelines shared benefit once its operational will ideally be the regional interdependence on energy and regional relationships. From Turkmenistan, it will pass through Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan, via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan to Fazilka on Indo-Pak border. In this, it will carry 90 million standard cubic meters of natural gas per day over the next 30 years. Hence, the pipelines foundation lies in the prevalence of peace along its route. Unfortunately, the itinerary has largely been marred with sour relations and lack of security, be it the existence of militancy, Pak-Afghan relations or Indo-Pak relations.
Some positive movements in this regard might have been a trigger point for TAPI. The recent Heart of Asia Conference seems to have lifted hopes of reconciliation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Pakistan and India. Despite these positive developments, TAPI continues to be inflicted with the lack of capacity to forfeit militancy. Also, the financing of the project is another issue, which is linked to the security risks along the route. Thus, before jumping to conclusion that the supply of gas will be revolutionary for South Asia, it is pertinent to see how the security situation and regional matters pan out.