TAPI could be a Game Changer
South Asia is perhaps the least integrated region in the world. Initiatives like SAARC and SAFTA, though reflecting noble intentions of regional leaders, have failed to integrate the region economically. Intra-SAARC trade is not more than two percent. Poverty, low human development, conflict and mistrust are the characteristics which define most South Asian nations. There exists a huge gap between the aspirations and actions of the leaders and the people of this region. On paper, one can find grand projects and initiatives under the umbrella of SAARC but perhaps it would be hard to name a single project collectively undertaken by South Asian countries.
In this context, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-PakistanIndia (TAPI) natural gas pipeline can turn out to be a game changer for the region. The operational agreement signed by the four countries in July 2014 is a landmark development for laying down the trans-border, 1735 kilometer long pipeline that originates from Galkanysh (formerly South Yolotan-Osman) in Turkmenistan and passes through Farah, Herat, Kandahar and Helmand provinces of Afghanistan before entering Pakistan. The pipeline is supposed to end in Fazilka in Indian Punjab after zigzagging through Pakistan. The projected cost of the pipeline is $7.6 billion and it is estimated to transport 60 to 90 million cubic meters gas per day.
All stakeholders will gain from the project. Turkmenistan’s Galkanysh field holds gas reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet. Turkmenistan has abundant resources of gas but it is landlocked between two energy giants – Russia and Iran. The gas pipeline will provide Turkmenistan a window of opportunity to tap two of the largest South Asian energy markets, reduce its dependence on Russia, diversify its gas market and deepen its relations with the South Asian region. For Afghanistan, this may be the largest development project. The TAPI pipeline could produce up to $400 million