TAPI project: Reviving the Eurasian Corridor
The modern day Eurasian Corridor covers the Central Asia and the former CIS states, ultimately connecting Eastern Europe and South Asia. The Eurasian Corridor is once again making news as the long-planned gas pipeline named TAPI, ( Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) is finally under construction. The TAPI project is sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and supported by a multilateral structure. The feasibility report of the project was completed by ADB in 2008, according to which the estimated capital cost was to be $ 7.6 billion.
The pipeline is planned to be 1,043 miles long, stretching from the Daulatabad gas field in Turkmenistan, to its terminus in India. The pipeline has a capacity to carry 1.9 billion cubic feet of gas per year. According to the Economic Times of India, Turkmenistan will sell the gas for $ 272 per thousand cubic meters, a markup of approximately one third over what the Turkmen are selling to China. With the addition of time charges and transit fees to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the actual price to India will be approximately $ 362 per trillion cubic meters ( tcm). At this price, Afghanistan would be earning $ 1.4 billion in transit fees.
As Turkmenistan is the source of gas in the project, there are disagreements on how much gas the country actually holds. According to the BP Statistical Review 2009, Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas, 7.94 tcm, exceeded only by Russia, Iran and Qatar. The huge South Yolotan-Osman field in western Turkmenistan was audited by the UK auditing firm Gaffney, Cline & Associates. The audit estimated the reserves of this field alone to be between 4 and 14 tcm of gas, making it the world’s fourth largest field.
Turkmenistan offers a hub for pipelines to export natural gas in all directions, committed to multiple export routes: north to Russia, east to China, south to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan, and possibly west to Europe via the Caspian Sea.
Extending from the Daulatabad gas field in Turkmenistan, the pipeline leads the highway through Herat, Helmand and Kandahar in Afghanistan, to Quetta and Multan in Pakistan, and on to Fazilka in India. Thus, Afghanistan has a strategic central significance in the TAPI project. According to President Berdmukhammedov of Turkmenistan, it is believed that the pipeline will act as a stabilizing influence on the Afghan region.
The National Development Strategy ( 2009-2013) of Afghanistan contains the ongoing planning for TAPI pipeline as the most significant development strategy for the country. Afghanistan’s central role as a land bridge connecting energy-rich Central Asia to energy-deficient South Asia is the basis of the development strategy. Also, the TAPI project is being relied on by Afghanistan as an export route for the bidding foreign companies to explore hydrocarbon in the north of the country.
TAPI is expected to boost the economies of all four countries. The government of Pakistan has described the pipeline as a vital project for the development and progress of the region. In addition, the pipeline is also being considered as potentially good for peace. As President Berdimuhamedov said, “ The pipeline between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India will be a weighty contribution to the positive cooperation on this continent.”
If set into action, such an agreement will not just provide an economic boost to member nations, but will also better place them to take advantages of possible opportunities such as local currency trade, along with greater social integration that had once existed creating greater acceptability amongst local people. Such cooperation often also creates much greater diplomatic muscle to influence events and issues which affect them.
In specific relation to the member countries, for Turkmenistan, TAPI pipeline would provide revenue and diversification of export routes, for Pakistan and India, it would address energy deficits. In Afghanistan, it would provide revenue for development and gas for industrial enterprises. The potential for export to other countries through the Pakistani port of Gwadar is a further advantage. TAPI is consistent with the US declared policy of linking Central and South Asia and diversifying export routes for Turkmen gas. For a number of countries, TAPI could provide business opportunities in construction and operation of the pipeline.
However, the major insurgencies along the TAPI route in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan appear as a challenge. But the member countries along with the international mediatory bodies are engaged in extracting political solutions. One such example is the strategy of national reconciliation offered at the ‘ London Conference on Afghanistan’. Similar political resolutions are required to be stressed on for the geopolitically significant project of TAPI; a hope for entire region