By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 20: A week after Russian President Vladimir Putin's Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov returned home from another trip to Kabul, Moscow has indicated that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, which has been facing an uncertain future after the return of Taliban in Afghanistan, could finally see some progress in the coming months.
Even though the new regime in the Afghan capital gave signals that it remains keen to continue the work on TAPI project, which has already seen more lows than highs since the first TAPI Summit held in Ashgabat in December 2010, no efforts were made to show any progress on the ground.
However, Kabulov's two-day visit to Kabul last week has fuelled a renewed push to revive the stalled project.
"As the situation in Afghanistan stabilises, the participation of domestic economic operators in the construction and operation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is possible," the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday while detailing the outcomes of high-ranking diplomat's January 12-13 visit to Kabul.
Kabulov held consultations with Afghanistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Mottaki and other representatives of the Taliban leadership on an entire range of issues of bilateral relations, with an emphasis on the development of trade, economic, cultural, educational and humanitarian ties.
"The focus is on mutually beneficial cooperation in such sectors as energy, agriculture, transport, infrastructure, industry, mining, in particular the organisation of regular commercial deliveries of Russian fuel and agricultural products to Afghan companies," stated the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Moscow maintained that the leadership of Afghanistan highly appreciates its efforts to assist the Afghan people in building a peaceful, independent and economically self-sufficient state.
Taliban, meanwhile, asserts that it remains firm on Afghanistan's ambition of developing an energy partnership with Russia at a time when its energy giants like Gazprom have been hit by sanctions from the Western countries.
With a total length of approximately 1814 km - 214 km of which falls in Turkmenistan, 774 km through Afghanistan, and 826 km in the territory of Pakistan before reaching Fazilka in India's Punjab - the mega TAPI gas pipeline project would connect Turkmenistan, one of the largest energy suppliers in the world, with the South Asian countries.
However, as reported by IndiaNarrative.com last year, India has made it clear that it is not just because of a "difficult neighbourhood" that work on the massive pipeline, which will have the capacity to transfer 33 billion cubic meters of gas per year, has been stalled.
"It is on record that India has some concerns about the commercial or the business aspect of the TAPI pipeline, and that is being discussed. GAIL is a stakeholder. So, let me simply put it that we have some concerns on the business principles, on the commercial side, apart from the logistical challenges which are very apparent," Sanjay Verma, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said just ahead of then President Ram Nath Kovind's visit to Turkmenistan in April 2022.
Earlier this week, the CEO of the TAPI gas pipeline project Muhammetmyrat Amanov and Turkmenistan Ambassador to Kabul Khoja Ovezov held a series of meetings in Kabul with the representatives of the Taliban government's Ministry of Interior Affairs, National Defence, and the Directorate General of Intelligence on security concept for the first phase of the project in Afghanistan.
They also met with the Afghan Acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum Shaikh Shahabuddin Delawar to discuss the commencement of the land acquisition process and development of gas distribution system in Herat province which will be the first phase of the TAPI project in Afghanistan.
The Taliban government reportedly assured the officials of TAPI project that it will do its best to ensure the full security of the project in the country.
(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)
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