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Regional Countries Including Bangladesh Can Benefit From TAPI Gas Pipeline Project – OpEd

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The work on The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is going to resume in Afghanistan. It is a regional connectivity project for supplying gas from Turkmenistan to India’s Fajilka (Punjab) to fulfill public demand in the region. It a great regional initiative proposed by ADB and taken by four regional countries, with the TAPI gas pipeline a bridge between South Asia and Central Asia. We know Central Asia is a huge source of natural gas, and Pakistan and India are very needy regarding gas demand. The pipeline aims to monetize Turkmenistan’s gas reserves and supply them to neighboring countries to promote the use of natural gas and improve energy security.

The regional connectivity gas  pipeline will supply natural gas from the Turkmenistan’s through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India. Construction on the project in Turkmenistan was inaugurated to construct the gas pipeline on 13 December 2015, work on the Afghan section began in February 2018, and work on the Pakistani section was planned to commence in December 2018. 

The TAPI pipeline project was launched in 2016. The TAPI pipeline is expected to carry 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The 1,814-kilometer gas pipeline stretches from Galkinesh, the world’s second-largest gas field, to the Indian city of Fazilka, near the Pakistan border. If the gas pipeline can be extended to Bangladesh, Bangladesh can also benefit from this gas pipeline project. We member that Bangladesh is an energy and gas hungry nation now, the storage of national gas in Bangladesh isn’t sufficient for the future to need the demand. The import of LNG from Qatar is very expensive. The costly LNG can’t provide benefit for Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs much gas and electricity for flourishing and continuing the advancement of its growing factories. Domestic need is an also important issue. Bangladesh sets its visionary goal ‘Vision 2041’ to be a developed country in 2041. So, Bangladesh must need the rapid and continuous flow of electricity and gas.  This TAPI gas project may bring potential for Bangladesh. Now it is high time for Policymakers of Bangladesh to think about this. On the other hands, the price of gas of Turkmenistan is at cheap. Bangladesh should try its level best join in the gas connectivity project. It will be very beneficial for Bangladesh if it connects itself with the gas project. Bangladesh decided to join TAPI gas pipeline project in 2012. Bangladesh could be the fifth nation after India to join the multi-billion-dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. Basically, Bangladesh would benefit if it joins this gas connectivity project. it can play an important role to strengthen the regional energy cooperation. Bangladesh needs to be a part with this gas connectivity project to accelerate and smooth the whole of ongoing developmental activities.

The 617 km pipeline of the gas pipeline was planned to pass through Afghanistan. But due to the internal situation, security in Afghanistan and India-Pakistan tensions, and other regional issues, the connectivity project wasn’t implemented. Bangladesh has been showing interest to join the gas project to tap the potential.

There was a speculation whether the connectivity project will be completed finally at all.  Taliban’s takeover the Kabul on August 15, 2021 increased the speculation. Now the speculation is over. The region is going to see the implementation of the connectivity project that may bring prosperity for the region.

Work on Afghanistan’s part of the TAPI gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and India via Pakistan is about to begin soon. Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaki, has said that work on Afghanistan’s part of the TAPI gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan via India will resume soon. He made the remarks at a news conference after a meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov in Kabul on October 31, 2021. Earlier on October 30, the Turkmen foreign minister arrived in Kabul on a two-day visit.

The countries in the region should play a sincere role in cooperation in trade, economic cooperation, energy, counter-terrorism, disaster management, infrastructure and education for multilateral benefit. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the CASA-1000 power transmission project would increase the cooperation amongst the regional countries.

Muttaki said the two sides discussed strengthening political ties and economic ties during the Turkmen foreign minister’s visit. “Important issues like TAPI, rail connectivity and electricity have been discussed,” he said. We have discussed strengthening the projects that have already started.

The Afghan blockade of the ambitious and multimillion-dollar gas pipeline between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) has been removed. The pipeline is expected to reduce South Asia’s energy shortages.

The planned pipeline is 1,814 km long. It will start supplying gas from Turkmenistan’s largest gas field in 2020. There were security concerns as the pipeline passed through war-torn Afghanistan. Turkmen gas will go to India and Pakistan through Afghanistan. Turkmenistan will export 33 billion cubic meters of gas every year.

The President of Turkmenistan said that this gas pipeline is important politics for the Central Asian countries. The pipeline was in question because of India’s relationship with Pakistan. But the Indian foreign secretary described the pipeline as a new chapter in cooperation between the four countries.

Pakistan is very interested to complete the project. Afghanistan, Pakistan including India would benefit from the gas pipeline connectivity project.  Afghanistan’s interim government has given already the green signal to complete the projects. Basically, this gas projects would fulfill the demand of energy, electricity and gas in Afghanistan, Pakistan including India. the project was expected to create 2,000 new employment opportunities. implementation of the TAPI gas pipeline project was beneficial for the entire region, with Afghanistan alone to get $1 billion as transit fee and royalty. 

Pakistan will be the main customer of Turkmen gas. Pakistan has long suffered from energy shortages that affect families and businesses alike. Load shedding is a very common term in Pakistan now. That is why the supply of gas and electricity has become an integral part of the election manifestos of political parties.

The project will bring clean fuel to the growing economies of India It will provide energy-hungry India gas to run its power plants. TAPI’s uninterrupted gas flow will be extremely important for India’s energy sector.

There is energy and gas crisis in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. This could help to fulfill the growing need of the people. India, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been facing energy crisis. TAPI has the potential to solve the energy woes of Pakistan and India. The pipeline is expected to facilitate a unique level of trade and cooperation across the region, as well as support peace and security between the four countries. More than 1.5 billion people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are expected to benefit from the long-term energy security provided by the project. Also, the project is expected to increase Turkmenistan’s revenue through gas sales. Afghanistan and Pakistan will also benefit from transit fees.

Although Taliban’s the Kabul takeover on August 15, 2021 has changed the geo-politics in the region, there are some issues where all regional countries can work together for ensuring the mutual interest in the region. Although India was an active stakeholder in this project, now India’s position in this regard is not clear. But India should remain in this project for its own interest. There might have some bilateral problems in India-Pakistan, but that is not issue. All regional states including India and Pakistan can work closely in the sector of trade and connectivity for ensuring the common greater interest. If this gas project can be extended to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan in the near future, all regional actors would benefit from the connectivity project. It is true that Resumption of TAPI pipeline project in Afghanistan brings a new hope for the region.

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Pathik Hasan

Pathik Hasan is a Dhaka-based NGO activist, researcher and freelance writer on contemporary international issues whose work has been published in many local and international publications. Academic background: BSS (Peace and Conflict Studies) and MSS (International Relations) under the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]

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