Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly had a successful meeting with his Turkmen counterpart on Wednesday on the status of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. Separately, the Indian and Pakistani officials met on the same day and are very close to an agreement on a joint strategy on transit fees to be paid to Afghanistan. The Indian oil minister told reporters that there has been “considerable progress” in putting final agreements in place.
The 1,700-kilometer (1,050 mile) TAPI pipeline will transport over 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Dauletabad gas fields in southeast Turkmenistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has estimated the cost of TAPI construction to be over $7.5 billion.
The main remaining stumbling bloc before the construction can begin is ADB's insistence that it would finance the project only if the pipeline operation is handed to a consortium led by a credible Western multinational to help guarantee its successful operation. ADB also seeks to have the Western-led consortium to participate in the development of the gas field, an arrangement believed to be opposed by Turkmenistan.
The previously planned Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline will be the obvious victim of TAPI’s construction. The Indians pulled out of the project last year and the Pakistanis are under pressure to do the same. A quick start in TAPI’s construction will also relieve pressure on Pakistan to import gas from Iran.