ASHGABAT: President Asif Ali Zardari Saturday inked multi-billion dollar gas pipeline project linking Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, assured complete security and full support to the project, saying it would change the development paradigm of the entire region.
The 1640 km long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline will pass through the volatile Afghan territory to link with Pakistan’s national gas network near Multan and terminate at Fazilka in India.
According to media reports, Ministers for Petroleum and Natural Resources Naveed Qamar also signed the agreement on Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement (GPFA) at Ashgabat that has already been approved by the federal cabinet.
The project conceived in 1995 was initially designed to provide gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, through Afghanistan. However, India was later invited to join the project in 2008.
Under the project Pakistan will get 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually and has also indicated that in case India backs out at any stage, it will be willing to purchase the additional gas.
Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth largest proven reserves of gas and is already providing gas to Russia and China.
Following the inking international bids will be sought from energy companies to launch the project that is likely to be completed by 2014.
President Zardari on the occasion assured complete security and full support to the project, saying it would change the development paradigm of the entire region.
“We shall work together to bring this project to early fruition,” President Zardari said in his address to the summit to ink the historic agreement to provide gas from the Turkmen fields to the other partners.
“This resource-rich region can complement the economies of our countries,” President Zardari said and added trans-regional development cooperation holds the critical key to promoting durable stability and economic development in the region.
The President said Pakistan was committed to the early realization and full implementation of this project and assured to play its part.
The President urged the participating countries to agree on a timeline for the completion and for taking other steps necessary for the projects success.
He said practical steps were needed in this respect and suggested setting a deadline of one year to get the financial closure.
He said financial closure would be half the work done and take the project forward. The President offered use of Pakistan’s ports for exports of the Central Asian Republics.
He said the project saw the light of the day due to the strong political will and backing of the countries of the region that have recognized the significance of such trans-regional connectivity.
He recalled the vision of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who was in Turkmenistan 16 years back and he accompanied her as the Minister of Investment.
“We came here with a leader who could see beyond her times,” he said and pointed that the region has immense potential and added that the TAPI brings with it great expectations for regional development.
The President expressed the hope that the TAPI would respond to the fast growing energy needs of the region and said it holds great promise for sustained economic growth in the partner countries.
He said energy can bring prosperity to the people of the region and Pakistan attaches immense priority to such projects. He said the gas pipeline would closely connect Central Asia and South Asia and trade and commerce among the countries was a win-win proposition.
He pointed that the hosting of the TAPI Summit coinciding with the celebrations of the adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution on the Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan, was of special significance.
He said Pakistan was proud to have co-sponsored the UN General Assembly resolution that recognized Turkmenistan’s status of permanent neutrality and said this decision has laid the foundation for focused development.
It was due to this policy that Turkmenistan’s fuel and energy sector were well developed and it has enabled it to implement the national programme for diversification of transit of Turkmen energy, he said.
The President said Pakistan shares with its Turkmen brothers and sisters common history, faith and heritage. “We share a common vision of a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar are part of President’s delegation to the gas- rich Central Asian Republic.