Home to one of the world’s largest gas reserves, Turkmenistan’s growing prominence as a leading energy supplier was underscored with the signing of the GSPA for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) pipeline project with India and Pakistan.
After nearly a decade of negotiations, the signing ceremony took place at the Turkmen Caspian sea resort of Avaza where the Turkmen deputy Prime Minister Baimurad Hojamukhamedov told Reuters, “The implementation of this project will give a powerful impetus to the social and economic development of all the participant countries.”
The ambitious 1,700km project which will wind its way from Central Asia through Afghanistan and South Asia seeks to transport over 30 billion cubic metres of gas annually from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Supported by the ADB, the Tapi project has been the subject of acrid debate with many doubtful over the viability of the project, which will entail cooperation in a region currently riven by violence and instability. According to Reuters analysts the project will cost between 6.4 billion pounds to 7.4 billion pounds. However, others believe that the project will lead to better relations between the neighbouring countries.
The GSPA announcement came shortly after New Delhi said it would cut purchases of Iranian oil by 11% following US pressure to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear programme. India’s oil minister S. Jaipal Reddy said that the pipeline was critical for the country’s growing requirement for energy given that India’s energy demand is estimated to quadruple by 2017.
A recent study by a British firm of auditors placed Turkmenistan’s gas reserves as the second largest in the world. With a significant energy surplus, Turkmenistan has been actively seeking avenues to export its energy. Though the Middle East remains the world’s leading energy hub, war and instability underscore the perils of depending upon the region. For this reason, the former Soviet republic is attracting great attention from China and Europe. The EU is seeking to enter into an agreement with Turkmenistan to supply gas through a planned energy corridor from the Caspian Sea to central Europe. In the recent past China has concluded significant gas supply agreements with Turkmenistan.
Struggling with a crippling energy deficit, enhanced energy supplies are desperately needed to meet Pakistan’s escalating energy demand. The signing of the agreement represents a significant step given that despite continuous efforts, progress on this project remained elusive. For years, landlocked Turkmenistan has been interested in exporting gas to the energy deficient South Asian markets as this would also give the country access to the ports on the Arabian Sea. The project could have a transformative effect on the entire region with increased trade revenues between Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, fostering improved relations between the neighbouring countries.