New Delhi to host the next panel meet
India will host the next steering committee meeting of the proposed 1,814 kilometre-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, senior officials on both sides confirmed.
The decision was came during the sixth joint Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) meeting on trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation.
The meeting was followed by a meeting between visiting Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov and Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan.
â€œI strongly believe in this project, and this is the position of Turkmenistan,â€ Mr. Merodov said at a small interaction.
â€œIt is not just a commercial project, but one which will be a good foundation for providing peace and security in the region,â€ he added.
In Beijingâ€™s shadow
Mr. Pradhan said Indiaâ€™s commitment to TAPI â€” first proposed in 1995 â€” â€œremains strongâ€, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made the proposal to hold the TAPI steering committee meet in Delhi when he met the Turkmenistan President in Ashgkabad last year, which he has now accepted. The last steering committee meeting, scheduled to be held annually, which is supposed to be held took place in April 2016.
Officials told The Hindu that the pipeline, that had its ground-breaking ceremony in December 2015, has seen flagging interest since then for a number of reasons. Indiaâ€™s effort is to tap Turkmenistanâ€™s Galkynysh gasfields, which are the fourth largest in the world.
The move is also an effort by the government to stave off any Chinese interest in the project, given that Turkmenistan is a close partner of China in its Belt and Road initiative across Central Asia, and Beijing is the largest buyer of its gas. Even the Galkynysh gas basin is being developed under a loan from the Chinese Development Bank (CDB).
When asked by The Hindu on apprehensions about Chinaâ€™s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which India has refused to join, affecting Indiaâ€™s interests, Mr. Meredov said it was important to have a â€œunited approachâ€ on connectivity and economic cooperation in Eurasia.
â€œWe must be practical in the implementation of strategic economic projects. China has the BRI, we have similar ideas, India has similar ideas,â€ he explained.
Responding to Indian sovereignty concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Mr. Meredov said Turkmenistan was â€œopen to all economic cooperation, which is how all such projects should be seen. India is and will be one of the most important countries for Turkmenistan.â€