The long and troubled history of TAPI Pipeline: What you need to know about ambitious gas pipeline project

The first-ever summit between India, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan on Thursday focussed on connectivity and trade. It was also decided at the meeting to resume talks for the suspended TAPI pipeline project

FP Staff January 28, 2022 18:39:19 IST
The long and troubled history of TAPI Pipeline: What you need to know about ambitious gas pipeline project

On December 13, 2015, Indian Vice President, Hamid Ansari (L), along with President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimohamedov (R), President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani (2R) and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif press the button to begin the welding process of the TAPI Gas Pipeline in Mary, capital of south eastern Mary province. AFP

The first-ever summit between India, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan on Thursday focussed on connectivity and trade. It was also decided at the meeting to resume talks for the suspended Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project.

At the joint statement, Turkmenistan president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stressed on the importance of the TAPI gas pipeline project that runs from the country’s Galknyshk oil field near Mary through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India.

Earlier this month, the Taliban also announced that they will deploy 30,000 troops to resume work on the TAPI gas pipeline.

What is the TAPI project that has been “under development” for three decades, why has it taken so long to complete, let’s take a look at the history of the ambitious gas pipeline project:

What is the TAPI project

The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) Pipeline, also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, is a natural gas pipeline being developed by the Galkynysh – TAPI Pipeline Company Limited with participation of the Asian Development Bank.

On 13 December, Turkmenistan started work on the $10 billion project that is designed to reduce its dependence on gas sales to Russia and China.

The pipeline starts from near the city of Mary in the southeastern part of Turkmenistan, close to the giant Galkynysh gas field which is meant to provide gas for the 1,814-kilometre link.

According to a report by Reuters, the pipeline was initially expected to be complete by December 2019 but ran into issues over India-Pakistan tension and the Taliban situation in Afghanistan.

While TAPI will provide Afghanistan with 14 million standard cubic meters a day (mmscmd) of natural gas, India and Pakistan will receive 38 mmscmd.

The pipeline is proposed to run from the Dauletabad gas field to Afghanistan, from where TAPI will be constructed alongside the highway running from Herat to Kandahar, and then via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan. The final destination of the pipeline will be Fazilka in India, near the border with Pakistan.

Troubled timeline of TAPI

Long before the groundbreaking ceremony in December 2015, the project was first proposed in 1995 when it was called TAP or Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline. With Pakistan and India’s involvement it was renamed to TAPI.

According to South Asian Voices, the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan then and also a part of the pipeline negotiations. The construction was also delayed due to political instability in the country.

First in 1998, US-based organisation Unocal withdrew from the project when al Qaeda bombed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

After the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, construction was once again halted.

As per a BBC report, a new deal was signed between the leaders of Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2002.

However, the project was essentially stalled in 2006 as its overall feasibility was questionable since one of the sections of the pipeline in Afghanistan was to run through a territory that was de facto under Taliban control.

On 24 April 2008, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan signed a framework agreement to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan. The intergovernmental agreement on the pipeline was signed on 11 December 2010 in Ashgabat.

Again in April 2012, India and Afghanistan failed to agree on a transit fee for gas passing through Afghan territory. In a similar fashion, Islamabad and New Delhi too could not agree on the transit fee for the segment of the pipeline passing through Pakistan.

On 16 May 2012, the Afghan Parliament approved the agreement on a gas pipeline and the day after, the Indian Cabinet allowed state-run gas-firm GAIL to sign the Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) with Türkmengaz, Turkmenistan's national oil company.

Construction of the pipeline in Turkmenistan finally began in 2015 and was completed by mid-2019.

In February 2018, work on the Afghan portion of TAPI was started under President Ashraf Ghani’s government. According to Voice of America, Taliban also pledged to support and protect the project in areas under its control.

A Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement (GPFA) was also signed by the petroleum ministries of the four countries in December 2010.

Although the work in Afghanistan started in February 2018, it was again suspended due to the fighting between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

After the Taliban established control over the country on 15 August 2021, it promised in October to resume the project soon.

Earlier this month, Turkmenistan announced that it will give a renewed push to the long-pending TAPI project in March and has been also discussing its prospects with the Taliban regime in Kabul.

With inputs from agencies

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