Ashgabat: Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov has committed to deepen ties with India and begin construction of the $10 billion TAPI gas pipeline project this year, as the two countries sought to step up collaboration in the energy sector and fertilizer production.

President Berdymuhamedov committed to strengthen ties with India during a meeting with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj at the presidential palace inAshgabat on Wednesday.

Swaraj, who co-chaired the fifth India-Turkmenistan inter-governmental joint commission on trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation with her Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov, termed it as a “preparatory" meeting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to this country in July.

“Committed to deepening India-Turkmenistan ties. #TAPI construction to begin this year. President Berdymuhamedov to EAM @SushmaSwaraj," a ministry of external affairs tweet said.

During the minister’s maiden visit to the Central Asian country, the two nations agreed to collaborate in the energy sector and discussed key bilateral and regional issues, including defence cooperation. Plans are afoot to set up a urea manufacturing facility in Turkmenistan and opening a representative office by ONGC Videsh Ltd in Ashgabat.

Swaraj and Meredov agreed on joint efforts to expedite the implementation of the TAPI pipeline project. India and Turkmenistan also discussed bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sector, specifically fertilizers and petrochemicals, and agreed to expedite mutually beneficial cooperation in this field.

The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) gas project is an over 1,800 km pipeline with design capacity to supply 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per annum from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is expected to be operational by 2018. TAPI will carry gas from Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh field that holds gas reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet.

From the field, the pipeline will run to Herat and Kandahar province of Afghanistan, before entering Pakistan, where it will reach Multan via Quetta before ending at Fazilka in Punjab in India.

Turkmenistan possesses the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas and substantial oil resources. The Galkynysh gas field has the second-largest volume of gas in the world, after the South Pars field in the Persian Gulf. PTI

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