ISLAMABAD - The proposed transnational Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project is fast emerging as a geopolitical disquiet between the two major powers - the United States and the Russian Federation - to invest in a $7.5 billion venture.
Well-placed diplomatic sources told TheNation on Tuesday that the United States that had made significant presence in the resource-rich Central Asia during the past decade in order to tape the vast investment opportunities has been upset on Russian keenness to take over the project.
The Russian move comes ostensibly after buoyancy shown by some American and European business concerns including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and Export-Import Bank (EIB) to invest in the 1,640 km long TAPI gas pipeline project.
The sources said that a high level Russian delegation led by the Energy Minister including senior officials from Russian giant Gazprom would soon visit Pakistan to explore investment opportunities in the mega project.
Some sources privy to these developments were also of the view that Moscow, which has expressed its willingness to invest in the project, was diplomatically engaged with Afghan government to help facilitate in securing the project. They believed that Russia was all set to deny further investment opportunities in Central Asia ostensibly in a strategic move to push the United States away from its backyard, therefore in tactical terms it wanted to grab the TAPI project.
“Security in Afghanistan and Pak-Afghan region is the main hurdle for Moscow in realising the project,” a Russian diplomat in Islamabad said in response to a query, adding that Russia was willing to invest in the energy projects including the TAPI gas pipeline project. He confirmed that a Russian delegation headed by the energy minister would tentatively visit Pakistan this year and the two countries were mutually working out dates of visit.
Last week, the US Embassy spokesman Mark Stroh described query as hypothetical when this scribe drew his attention towards media reports that the US was distressed after Russia also expressed its willingness to invest in the TAPI gas pipeline project. He conceded that the US and other international companies were keeping close eye on the progress of the project by the TAPI countries.
The TAPI gas pipeline backed by the Asian Development Bank will bring 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (bcfd) from Turkmenistan’s gas fields to Multan in Central Pakistan and end in the northwestern Indian town of Fazilka. To be completed by 2013-2014, the landmark deal was signed by President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Indian Petroleum Minister Murli Deora and President of the Asian Development Bank Haruhiko Kuroda in Ashgabat the capital city of Turkmenistan in 2010.