New Delhi: Work on a $10-billion pipeline to transport gas from energy-rich Central Asia to India is expected to begin in December, Turkmenistan’s ambassador to India said on Monday.
Countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh had also expressed interest in joining the project, known as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, ambassador Parakhat H. Durdyev said at an event on India-Central Asia relations organized by the Ananta Aspen Centre, a think tank.
His comments came ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s week-long visit, beginning 6 July, to Central Asian republics—Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The trip will be interspersed by a visit to Russia for a Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit from 8 to 10 July.
Building energy and transport linkages with the Central Asian republics, all of whom are landlocked, will be central to Modi’s visit to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, Durdyev said. Asked when he expected the TAPI pipeline to go onstream, Durdyev said all four countries were committed to the project. “The legal framework is in place. By September this year, we will be announcing the consortium (that will build the pipeline) itself and (will also announce) the leader of the consortium in consultation with our partners... we hope to look at December as an important time by when we start physical work on the pipeline,” he said.
India’s participation in the 1,800-km-long gas pipeline was cleared by the cabinet in May 2012. The pipeline will have the capacity to supply 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per annum from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It will carry gas from Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh field that holds reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet. The pipeline is expected to be operational by 2018 but Durdyev did not mention any deadline for the project to be completed.
The ambassadors of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan who were also present at the event sought Indian assistance in education, information technology and agriculture. Tajikistan’s ambassador Mirzosharif Jalolov welcomed India’s expected entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation—a Eurasian political, economic and security organization founded in 2001 in Shanghai by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
According to a Twitter post by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month, the grouping “adopted recommendations paving the way for India and Pakistan’s accession to the SCO”.