Turkmenistan is the richest Central Asian state in terms of natural gasreservoirs. In 1989, Turkmenistan offered extension of its natural gas to the South Asian market through a pipeline via Afghanistan, Pakistan and subsequently to India.
The Unocal Corporation situated in California, working in extraction of oil and gas in many parts of the world also hinted at investment in the project.
The company invested $1million conducting a survey between 1991 and 1994, but it could not get the support for the project from the following hard line regime of the Taliban. As a result the project was halted.
It was initially decided that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline would be extended from Dawlatabad, Turkmenistan via Faryab, Mazar-e-Sharif, Samangan, Parwan, Kabul, and Jalalabad to Pakistan and then onward to India. However, the plan was amended by changing the route of the pipeline.According to a new agreement, the pipeline would now be extended through western Afghanistan instead of the eastern part.
The pipeline will now come from Dawlatabad, Turkmenistan which will then be extended byanother 735 kilometres in Afghanistan through Herat, Helmand and Kandahar provinces to Quetta, Pakistan, The pipeline will then enter the Indian territory via Punjab in Pakistan.
In addition, themember countries had decided to construct a road link in a move to strengthen the transit trade between the Central and South Asian countries. They signed an agreement in 2001 to implement the project, and also formed a mutually agreed TAPI Limited Corporation.
The project has further been strengthened following the signing of a landmark agreement by the four countries in 2010.The agreement said around 33 billion cubic metres of gas would be transported to the member states annually out of which Afghanistan would get 16 per cent share while Pakistan and India 42 per cent respectively.
It was also decided to invite competentcompanies to initiate work on the much-delayed pipeline and to complete within three years but the work was yet to be started according to the agreed plans.
In recent days, officials from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India met in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, to discuss the launch of the pipeline in the 2014 and complete it by the end of 2016.
In 2011, officials of Pakistan and Turkmenistan held a wide-ranging meeting in Islamabad to discuss the price of the gas and the two sides reached a mutually agreed pricing mechanism.
Turkmenistan’sminister of oil and gas, in an international conference in 2012 declared that the TAPI gas pipeline would be implemented without further delay. He expressed optimism after the implementation of the project around 33 billion cubic meters of gas would be transported to the South Asian market.
In 2012, Waheedullah Shahrani, Afghanistan’s Minister of Mines and Petroleum, visited Ashgabat to finalise the gas prices with Turkmenistan.The President of Turkmenistan assured him of a suitable price for the coming 30 years. Afghanistan will import 500 million cubic meters of gas annually. An agreement to this effect is expected to be signed in 2014.
Afghanistan’s import of 500 million cubic metres of gas will be increasedin the next decade to one billion cubic metres and in the third decade it would be increased to 1.5 billion cubic meters.
Officials of the member countries signed a Technical Advisory Services Agreement (TASA) in 24th technical meeting in Ashgabat to meet the financial challenges of the project. In case of the extra gas demand, the buying countries shall inform the supplier country 48 hours prior.
Jalil Jamrani, head of development program at the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, said member countries were concerned about the security of the pipeline. The Afghan government, however, has promised to provide 7,000 security personnel for the protection of the vital pipeline in Afghanistan.
He said the ministry was in close contact with the security officials in order to work out a proper plan for the security of the pipeline.
The TAPI gas pipeline project worth $8 billion would create substantial job opportunities and help in theeconomic prosperity of the country.Afghanistan willget $400 million of revenue annually from the pipeline.