Ashgabat looks for investments in TAPI gas pipeline project
Turkmenistan presented its oil and gas potential during the international road show "Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan 2020" in Dubai. The forum participants' attention was paid to the TAPI gas pipeline project (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). The Turkmen authorities invited the oil and gas companies present to invest in a project that has already begun.
The road show, which took place on February 24-25, was attended by a representative of more than 100 oil and gas, service and consulting companies from 40 countries. Opening the conference “TAPI - gas pipeline of peace and cooperation”, Advisor to the President of Turkmenistan on oil and gas issues, Yagshigeldy Kakaev, emphasized the importance of Ashgabat’s initiatives aimed at creating a global architecture of energy security, combining the efforts of the world community in resolving energy issues relevant to the whole world. He spoke about the implementation of large-scale oil and gas projects, including the construction of the TAPI gas pipeline, which is designed to give a powerful impetus to the socio-economic development of Central and South Asia, as well as contribute to strengthening peace and stability in the region.
It is planned to complete the construction of the pipeline in a year, although the deadlines are constantly being postponed for several reasons. The main thing is there is no money and there is no stability in Afghanistan. TAPI needs about $ 7.5 billion to complete the construction. In addition to the pipeline itself, the project involves the construction of compressor stations, start-up facilities for treatment facilities, access roads and power lines. And this is several million more. Whether investors were found during the road show is not yet known. Therefore, it is problematic to indicate the exact timelines for the completion of construction and commissioning of the TAPI gas pipeline.
Turkmen expert Serdar Aitakov believes that this is another attempt by the Turkmen authorities to attract attention and investment in a project that is experiencing great difficulties. “Without solving intra-Afghan problems, it’s premature to talk about the realism of TAPI. The risks are too high. This event was planned long before the publicly announced information that“ agreements were about to be reached “to reduce the contingent of foreign troops, primarily the United States, and to start the reconciliation process between the Taliban (the organization is banned in the Russian Federation) and official Kabul. And also about the upcoming US agreement with the Taliban," Aitakov told Vestnik Kavkaza.
He drew attention to the fact that several parallel processes are underway in Afghanistan itself. This is an open confusion with the counting of votes following the results of the presidential elections in Afghanistan, and the confrontation that arose between the main players. These are statements and claims of the first vice president of Afghanistan, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, for power in the northern provinces of the country. In particular, he stated that he was ready to create a parallel government under the leadership of Abdullah Abdullah. “Everyone is in a hurry to stake their primacy. Therefore, a real solution to the problems with the TAPI project will follow only after the decline in the situation with the Afghan elections, with the start of a constructive and institutional dialogue between the authorities and the Taliban, the key condition for which will be mutual recognition of each other as legitimate political forces and with achieving a certain political balance, which, if it doesn’t exclude, then minimizes the possibility of resolving issues with the help of military force, ”the Turkmen expert noted. In his opinion, it will probably be possible to resolve issues of armed groups that have not been controlled by the Taliban and the authorities that have been active recently, and it is possible that it is precisely in connection with the persistence of the Turkmen authorities in the construction of TAPI and with the aim of disrupting this construction.
The United States, which is lobbying for the project, now deliberately does not demonstrate its interest in it, so as not to give the Taliban an extra trump card for bargaining and speculation on the topic of security. Although it has long been known that the United States is the initiator of the maximum economic integration of Afghanistan with the countries of Central Asia. "The US State Department specifically, for these purposes, singled out the Central Asian region from the conditional spaces of the newly independent states and the OSCE and assigned it to the South Asian region, including it in the competence of the corresponding regional department of the US Foreign Ministry, and considered it in this strategic, but, alas , a purely speculative context. This gave rise to a series of semantic and substantial conflicts, given the vanishing small role of economic cooperation between the countries of the region and Afghanistan," Aitakov emphasized.
Central Asian and Middle East expert Alexander Knyazev told Vestnik Kavkaza that any agreement between the US and the Taliban, if it is signed, will not mean an automatic end to the war in Afghanistan, especially given the fragmentation of the Taliban and the multidirectional nature of the Taliban factions "in interests "and the diversity of external actors throughout the Afghan situation. The USA has been providing political support to the TAPI project for more than a year, but this does not affect the lack of project financing or the security situation. American companies have no big commercial interest in TAPI; there is rather a geopolitical interest. TAPI is opposed (so far, of course, theoretically) to gas supplies to Pakistan from Iran (supported by Russia and China) and existing Iranian gas supply projects to India. It’s probably paradoxical, but Qatar, in whose capital the US-Taliban negotiations are ongoing, is one of the most important opponents of the Turkmen project, and Qatar is one of those countries that have successfully moderated a significant part of the Taliban for a long time. Supporting TAPI, Saudi Arabia in recent years, on the contrary, has seriously lost its position of influence on the Taliban. Absolutely evasive, expectant positions regarding TAPI are still held by Pakistan and India. China may hypothetically support TAPI if Turkmen gas flows along the Sino-Pakistan economic corridor instead of India to the south of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of the PRC. The construction of such a gas pipeline is of interest to the Russian Gazprom.
In Afghanistan itself, by the way, in addition to security issues, the task is to acquire land from the owners through which the gas pipeline will pass, given the extremely difficult domestic political situation in the country, the solution to this problem can take years. And this is only part of those factors that have not been acting in the interests of Turkmen gas diversification for a long time, the TAPI project (formerly called the Trans-Afghan Pipeline) has been in operation for more than 30 years, by and large the project has a large Soviet background, and remains at the stage of just a project.