New Delhi: Brushing aside security concerns on the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, Pakistan today said it is looking to sign the gas supply and purchase agreement for the$7.6 billion pipeline by July.
“I don’t think security is an issue. This was never raised in the meeting which we had few days ago... Neither the Afghan side showed any concern, nor did the Pakistan side, nor India, as far as security is concerned,” the Pakistan Prime Minister’s energy advisor for petroleum and natural resources, Dr Asim Hussain, told PTI in an interview.
Indian petroleum minister S Jaipal Reddy had said last week that as a buyer and being at the tail-end of the project, India has concerns relating to the safety of the pipeline and safe transit of gas through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Quite obviously, our goal is not merely the construction of the pipeline, but also the continuous and uninterrupted flow of Turkmen natural gas over several decades,” Reddy had said after a meeting held here last week among all the four nations for the pipeline.
“If it was an issue, it would have been raised in the meeting,” Hussain, who was here to attend the meeting, said when asked about Pakistan’s willingness to guarantee unhindered supply of gas through its territory.
In the four nations’ ministerial meeting last week, both India and Pakistan had agreed to the broader aspects of the gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA), but crucial things like the price of gas and transit fee are yet to be decided.
The deadline for signing of the GSPA was also extended to 31 July from the earlier schedule of April-end in the meeting.
The Pakistan Prime Minister’s energy advisor added that all the four countries will meet in Kabul in the next few days to deliberate on issues like the gas price.
“We are meeting in Kabul in the next few days and then in Pakistan. So it will be finalised soon. By the grace of God, we should be able to sign the GSPA by 31 July,” he said.
He added that Pakistan will work jointly with India while negotiating the gas price with Turkmenistan.
“It has to be considerably less than crude oil prices. Everyone wants the best price... We will have a joint strategy with India as far as the purchase of gas is concerned (while negotiating the prices),” he said.
According to Indian oil ministry sources, Turkmenistan is talking of three different prices for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India that are likely to be not less than$7-7.5/MMBtu, the rate at which it sells gas to China.
Asked about the transit fee that India will have to pay to Pakistan and Afghanistan for allowing passage of the gas, Hussain said, “We have not yet come to that level. First, we need to know the gas prices, but obviously, all the parties have a fair amount of idea on this (transit fee). We can’t ask something which breakdowns the talks. Pakistan will never do that.”
He added that the natural gas is likely to be delivered by Turkmenistan at their border and thereafter, the countries concerned would have to take care of the pipeline.
“I mean we have not reached to that stage yet, but I think Turkmenistan would give it (gas) at their border. That is what my perception is and after that, transit fees and add-ons like the cost of the pipeline and security will be included in this,” Hussain said.
Asked about funding for the$7.6 billion project, he said it has not been decided yet, although India would have to bear the maximum costs, as it will be the last beneficiary of the pipeline.
“Obviously, India will have to pay the most as the last leg of the pipeline will be for them... Once we sign the GSPA, we will reach to that level,” Hussain said.
The four-nation pipeline, which envisages supply of gas from Turkmenistan’s South Yoloten-Osman field, will traverse 1,650 km of Afghan and Pakistani territory before entering India at Fazilka, in Punjab.
As per the plan, 38 million standard cubic metres per day of gas would be supplied to both India and Pakistan for 30 years, while 14 mmscmd would be bought by Afghanistan.
Construction of the pipeline is due to start in 2013 and is targeted to be completed and operational by the end of 2016. For this, all the four nations will form a consortium that will build and operate the pipeline.
TAPI is being pushed by the US as an alternative to the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, while the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is the Lead Development Partner of the project.
According to the broader agreement, Turkmenistan will deliver the gas at the Afghanistan border and thereafter, a consortium of companies constituted by the four nations would take responsibility for establishing, operating and maintaining the transnational pipeline for transportation of the gas.
This is a major departure from the terms that are being discussed for the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, where New Delhi has been insisting on taking custody and paying for the gas only at its border with Pakistan, making Iran and Pakistan responsible for safe delivery of gas.
In contrast, Turkmenistan will not be responsible for any shortfall in supplies through the proposed TAPI pipeline due to disruptions.