Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: TAPI Project

TAPI Project

Despite nine years of war, the American-led NATO forces and their accompanying

Afghan troops are nowhere close to dominating the country's military space, a prerequisite that can pave the way for productive dialogue between Kabul and the

Taliban. Nation-building has also not gone far enough to inspire confidence among the Afghans to spurn the Taliban and bond decisively with their leaders and their supporters abroad.

India, which has high stakes in Kabul, needs to methodically chart its way forward to ensure that its core security and long-term economic interests are safeguarded.

Indian diplomacy will faces a huge challenge of engaging productively with international stakeholders, whose common and competing interests in

Afghanistan criss-cross frequently. These foreign players with entrenched interests in Afghanistan are the United States, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asian countries, including energy rich Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan.

India recently joined Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to sign a framework agreement to build a 1, 680-km gas pipeline. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-

Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline will initially draw gas from the Daulatabad gasfield and convey it to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan. India and Pakistan will each get 33 bcm annually. TAPI's route may serve as a stabilising corridor, linking neighbours together in economic growth and prosperity.

The TAPI deal presents India its first major opportunity to acquire a durable niche in this resource rich region, with which it shares deep historical bonds.

Turkmenistan's neighbour Kazakhstan, a country with a massive landmass, huge oil and gas reserves has over the last few years been considered a possible candidate for supplementing TAPI gas flows.

The project would provide Afghanistan not only energy for its own development but also handsome dividends by way of a hefty transit fee. It is estimated that

Kabul would annually receive a transit tariff of around $1.4 billion from India and

Pakistan once the $7.6-billion pipeline is laid.

The implementation of the TAPI project is likely to ease the hostility between India and Pakistan. Access to the Indian market makes gas flowing through the TAPI pipeline cheaper for all stakeholders, including Pakistan. Simultaneously, energy sourced from Turkmenistan can support rapid expansion of industry in Pakistan, help spur entrepreneurship, and potentially encourage the evolution of a solid constituency among its business class, which has a vested interest in peace with

India.

Finally, participation in the TAPI project would arm India with a rock solid argument to play a prominent role in Afghanistan.

While going ahead with the TAPI project, India should make sure that it does not alienate Iran. Facts of geography, shared energy interests, and Iran's cultural appeal among India's politically significant population segments call for a sustained engagement between New Delhi and Tehran.

In the absence of geographical contiguity, Iran is India's gateway to Afghanistan.

Both countries have already made considerable efforts in drawing a transit corridor that links Iran's port of Chabahar with Afghanistan's ring road system. The still fragile security situation in Afghanistan also demands that India and Iran sustain a comprehensive and active political and security dialogue with each other.

Notwithstanding the existing difficulties and impediments imposed by the

Americans, India, at some point of time, may have to go ahead and source natural gas from Iran. From an energy perspective, the TAPI project is not a substitute for the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India