KABUL: Afghanistan hosted leaders from Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India on Friday for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Afghan section of a much-delayed multi-billion dollar pipeline project to transit natural gas from energy rich Turkmenistan to South Asia through Afghanistan.
The work on the Afghan section was started after the construction of the Turkmenistan section was completed which was started in 2015. The ground breaking ceremony in Herat of Afghanistan was attended by Turkmenistan president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Pakistani PM, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, M.J. Akbar, and Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani.
The project, which Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, called it “cooperation and development corridor” between central and south Asia will transit the natural gas of the energy rich Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India in south Asia. TAPI is the first common mega project in Afghanistan involving India and Pakistan the two historical rivals and is seen as a driver to increase cooperation between these countries.
“We don’t have enmity with any country, just we want to safeguard our national interests (…) we hope this (TAPI) would be a foundation for broader regional cooperation” and to improve “trust” among the regional countries Ghani said. “Regional cooperation will transform us (countries) from poverty to richness” he said.
Ghani said TAPI project is not only a pipeline but now it turned to a collection of projects and a “development corridor.” There will be also an electricity, fiber optic and railway project also build parallel with the TAPI pipeline.
In the ceremony Turkmenistan president vowed his country “will increase its cooperation in transit and energy sector” with Afghanistan and regional countries.
On his part Pakistan prime minster assured Afghan president “You will find no better partner more committed than Pakistan toward peace in the region.” In reference to Afghan people he said “I tell to my Afghan brothers and sisters, your success is our success, your development is our development, and your peace is Pakistan’s peace” to assure Afghans that Pakistan will cooperation in implementation of the project in Afghanistan.
Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, Akbar also emphasized on importance of the project for the four countries.
“TAPI is important for India” as India’s need for energy is being increased and Turkmenistan’s gas through TAPI for India would be “important source of energy.”
He also called on the participating countries to increase cooperation to improve transit between them. “Why we cannot be enabled to make the borders small obstacles” saying the countries should work to ease cross border movements of the citizens.
However, the project is expected to help Afghanistan’s economic growth. In addition to the gas transit the project will create thousands of job opportunities and Kabul will annually receive approximately $400 million as a transit fee from the project.
Taliban, who are seen as a security concern for the project in a statement announced their “support” for the project in areas under their control and called it “a good omen for Afghans.”
The project will cost $7.5billion and is scheduled to be completed by 2019. The pipeline will have a length of 1,814km and 816km of it will cross through the five western provinces of Afghanistan to enter Pakistan’s Quetta city and finally will reach the Fazilka city of India.
The pipeline will transit 33 billion cubic meter gas per year to the three countries and Afghanistan will purchase only 3 billion cubic meters in 30 years. The concept of TAPI was originally conceived in 1990s but the practical discussions was started in 2003 and finally the construction work started in 2015 in Turkmenistan and completed today.