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The problematic pipeline is set to celebrate a major milestone. Or is it just a mirage?9 February 2018
The Afghan section of the 1,800-kilometer Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline will be inaugurated at a ceremony set for 23 February, although it is unclear if ground will actually be broken. The Hindu writes that the ceremony will merely “mark the beginning of formal round of talks” among the four participating countries.
Mystery also surrounds the interest of a deep-pocketed new investor in the scheme, which aside from severe security and geopolitical hurdles also needs to secure financing.
Turkmenistan recently revealed that Saudi Arabia had committed to making “substantial investments” in TAPI, with Deputy Prime Minister Maksat Babayev saying the Saudi Fund for Development had actually disbursed funds.
Turkmen officials released no further details of the Saudi investment, nor did the Saudi fund respond to emailed requests for confirmation, Eurasianet.org writes.
The pipeline, if it is ever finished, will open a sizeable new market for Turkmenistan’s vast natural gas reserves. Once its major customer, Russia’s Gazprom stopped purchasing Turkmen gas two years ago, China remained its sole major customer.
Regional rivalries, compounded by the dangers of running a big construction project across Afghanistan, have stymied TAPI.
Indian misgivings about Pakistan’s role in the project have blunted Delhi’s interest from the outset, The Hindu writes, saying India has been “dragging its feet” since the last ground-breaking ceremony in 2015.
Iran, currently embroiled in a dispute with Ashgabat over unpaid gas bills, is more than an interested observer of TAPI, as it wants to build a separate pipeline to Pakistan.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh recently played down the prospects of Indian-Pakistani collaboration on TAPI, Iran’s Financial Tribune wrote.
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