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India renews interest in TAPI project, to attend ground-breaking ceremony in Afghanistan  

Ashok Tuteja | New Delhi |

Despite its current state of relationship with Pakistan, energy-deficient India is looking with renewed interest at the much-delayed multi-billion-dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline that will connect Central Asia with South Asia.

India, along with representatives of all the other three countries,  is expected to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony of the Afghan section of the pipeline on 23 February that will also mark the revival of formal talks among the participating nations, it is learnt.

During the event, all the four nations are expected to finalise the terms of commercial contracts among them for giving shape to the 1,814 km pipeline which will run from the gas fields in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Fazilka town in India.

The pipeline would be able to carry up to 33 billion cubic metres of gas every year. Of that volume, India and Pakistan would buy around 14 billion cubic metres each with the remaining five billion going to Afghanistan.

A delegation from Turkmenistan had visited India in November last year to urge the Indian leadership not to have second thoughts about the TAPI project.

The last ground-breaking ceremony took place in Turkmenistan in December 2015 in which India was represented by the then Vice-President Hamid Ansari. However, since then, India has not shown much enthusiasm towards the project for various reasons, including its frosty ties with Pakistan. 

India is also worried about the safety of this Asian Development Bank (ADB) supported project, given the fact that the pipeline would run through restive areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. “How will they (Afghanistan and Pakistan) ensure the safety of the pipeline when there is a big question mark over their ability to provide security to their own people,’’ a source said. New Delhi also fears that Pakistan could turn off the gas supply to India whenever ties between the two countries deteriorate.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is also said to be taking keen interest in TAPI and reportedly assured Turkmenistan of making substantial investment in the project.