While European bureaucrats in Brussels report alleged success in phasing out reliable pipeline supplies of Russian fuel following a warm winter and EU government experts and businesses spasmodically predict the future adverse consequences of such a move, countries in other regions of the globe continue to consider gas pipelines as a prerequisite for their prosperity.
It is that kind of gas pipelines the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project belongs to, also called the “Peace Pipeline”. It is able to serve as a catalyst for boosting the socio-economic development and regional cohesion of its participants, and reduce tension in their relations due to the creation of energy interdependence.
The TAPI gas pipeline is being built to deliver natural gas from energy-rich Central Asia to power-hungry South Asia. The project envisages exports of Turkmenistan gas to neighboring countries with 5 bn cubic meters of natural fuel going to Afghanistan and 14 mln cubic meters going to each of Pakistan and India. Ashgabat has recently completed its section of the gas pipeline that runs to the Turkmen-Afghan border. The engineering aspects of the Afghan section have also been explored. A power transmission network designed to cover the electricity shortage in Afghanistan and Pakistan whose capacity is expected to reach 4,000 MW is one of TAPI’s vital supporting projects.
Europeans who are unsympathetic to TAPI believe that the Asian project promoted since 2010 is doomed to failure. The time will show if they are right. What is important now, however, is the fact that the participating countries are slowly but purposefully continuing their efforts to create the gas main.
In October 2022, Serdar Berdimukhamedov, the newly elected President of Turkmenistan, instructed a government meeting to speed up the implementation of the international project. TAPI will provide Ashgabat with additional income and diversify export routes. The new gas pipeline will reduce the country’s dependence on outbound large gas supplies to Beijing while Beijing is strongly interested in boosting imports of Turkmenistan gas to meet the needs of its huge and increasingly growing economy.
TAPI will become the largest project for developing war-torn Afghanistan. Revenues generated by pipeline transits may total about 80– 85% of the country’s annual budget. The Taliban demonstrate to Ashgabat their willingness to ensure the required security of the gas main and create special security forces to protect the main. The successful implementation of the gas main project is also important to them in terms of international recognition.
There are opinions in Pakistan that TAPI will create jobs in backward areas located along the pipeline, strengthen the national economy and, most importantly, reduce the existing energy gap. Pakistan’s natural gas reserves are being depleted at a rate of 8 to 10% per year with energy there now being expensive and beyond the reach of most of the population. Official Islamabad believes that TAPI can be completed in three to four years once the project is fully funded. In February this year, Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik during a visit to Saudi Arabia said that Pakistan was ready to implement the gas main project as soon as possible. If New Delhi elects to withdraw from the project, Pakistan would be willing to buy its gas share.
With India having become the world’s third largest energy consuming country, it is clear that TAPI will boost India’s economic growth while most of its demand is still covered with coal and oil. New Delhi will be able to succeed in its negotiations with Islamabad on ensuring the reliability of supplies to the republic.
Major players of the energy market may also join TAPI. For instance, the EU’s pressure on Russia is pushing Moscow to look for new partners. Previously competitive routes are now seen as promising. In January this year, Nikolay Shulginov, the Russian Energy Minister, said in an interview with the TV channel PTV World (Pakistan) that Moscow did not rule out the possibility of participating in the gas pipeline project.
As an end conclusion, it is worth stating that the Europeans are definitely mistaken in that they can count on Turkmenistan gas supplies through the Caspian Sea. While Asian countries are focused on the implementation of TAPI, Ashgabat definitely does not possess idle resources for the European Union.