Perizat RISBEK KIZI
On Saturday, 27th November, on the sidelines of the 15th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov met with Pakistani President Arif Alvi. The two presidents discussed new areas of interaction in various fields, including trade and economics, fuel and energy, construction, agriculture and other spheres. The Pakistani President reaffirmed Islamabad’s continued support for the timely completion of the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project and invited Berdimuhamedov to visit Pakistan in the near future.
However, on 25th November, the Russian news portal TASS reported with reference to Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan about the freezing of the TAPI gas pipeline until the situation in Afghanistan stabilized.
In August, Mohammad Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for the Qatari political office of the Taliban, said they were interested in building the TAPI gas pipeline and were ready to ensure the safety of international economic projects. In addition, last week Turkmen delegation visited the Herat province, where the prospects for the implementation of the TAPI gas pipeline were discussed. The Governor of Herat stated: “We discussed the technical aspects and on-site work on the TAPI project. It will be implemented in the near future.” In turn, the Ambassador of Turkmenistan confirmed that Ashgabat supports these initiatives, and specified that several committees have already been created for joint work.
Moreover, on November 24, in the Kabul district of Dashti-Barchi, where the Hazaras live, about a thousand local residents met with high-ranking Taliban representatives. Speaking to residents, Taliban government spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid promised that Afghanistan’s economic problems would be resolved in less than six months. “The war in Afghanistan has just ended and the Taliban are trying to start big projects to build the country,” said Mujahid and listed the projects: TAPI, CASA-1000 and Mes Ainak (the largest undeveloped copper deposit).
The future of TAPI
As reported by Afganistanu.Ru, experts advise against taking seriously the words about the near future implementation of the TAPI gas pipeline. Thus, according to some insiders, the Pakistani minister’s statement on the suspension of work may be related to behind-the-scenes discussions on India’s exclusion from the project. “The presence of India, even on paper, makes the project unattractive because investors do not believe in its implementation amid disagreements between Islamabad and New Delhi,” said one expert. Against this background, some argue that the question is currently being discussed, whether it is necessary to bring this issue to the public field. Another insider claims that the idea of excluding India belongs to Islamabad, but Turkmenistan has not yet agreed to such a reduction in possible supplies.
At the same time, in an interview with FAN, orientalist Dmitry Vorodin noted that the importance of the TAPI project should not be forgotten. According to him, the interests of many players are tied to the project, including Russia, which wants to level the European risks for Gazprom. Considering this, the international gas pipeline TAPI should be considered in the context of the agreements between Moscow and Islamabad on the construction of the “Pakistani Stream” since TAPI must transport gas to the “Pakistani Stream”.