Taliban to cooperate in TAPI gas pipeline, other projects

The Taliban has assured “cooperation” for the next phase of the TAPI project - a transnational, transregional  gas pipeline project that spans four nations - and other bilateral development projects between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan

Shraddha Nand Bhatnagar Nov 05, 2020
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The Taliban has assured “cooperation” for the next phase of the TAPI project - a transnational, transregional  gas pipeline project that spans four nations - and other bilateral development projects between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

In a tweet, Dr. Muhammad Naeem, the spokesperson of the group’s Doha political office, said that the progress in these projects were discussed in a meeting between Turkmenistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hajiyev and Taliban’s Deputy Political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar on Nov 2.

"This afternoon, the political deputy and chief of the political office of the IEA (Islamic Emirate ofAfghanistan) Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and the delegation accompanying him met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Vepa Hajiyev and his team in Doha.

"During the meeting, the ongoing process of Intra-Afghan negotiations, the safe implementation of the new phase of the TAPI project and the boost of bilateral relations were discussed,” he tweeted.

Quoting Mullah Baradar, he added,"We consider the TAPI, the Aqina port railway, the power line running from Turkmenistan and other fructiferous projects as important for the prosperity of the Afghan people and good relations with the neighbors and are ready for every type of cooperation in this regard."

"The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan expressed optimism about the ongoing process of Intra-Afghan negotiations and their preparedness for any kind of help in the process," the spokesperson tweeted.

This assurance is being considered important for the success of these projects as the group now controls more than 50 percent of area in Afghanistan. After the US-Taliban deal, which was signed on February 28 this year, it is feared that the Taliban will either make a comeback or will push the country into further political instability.

The much-awaited intra-Afghan peace negotiations that started between the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban in Sep in the Doha is the most critical phase of the Afghan peace process as it brought the two warring sides face-to-face to negotiate peace for the first time. The main aim is to achieve a permanent ceasefire and bring about a political settlement to decades long conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and destabilized Afghanistan.

The assurance from Taliban comes as a relief to Turkmenistan, which was struggling for a long time to commence these projects due to political instability in Afghanistan.

Apart from the TAPI project, the two countries are working on the Aqina port railway project, which will connect Afghanistan with Andkhoi in Turkmenistan. The project is said to cost $30 million. In the future, this railroad is planned to be extended to the border with Tajikistan with further entry to the states of the Asian Pacific region. This will give Afghanistan an opportunity to become an important link of international transport corridors running across Central Asia in the North-South and East-West directions.

The third project between the two countries is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) Power Interconnection Project which is said to pave way for the delivery of long-term power supply. It will support Afghanistan’s energy needs and enable power trade and exchange among the three countries.

However, the most prestigious is the TAPI project. With 1814 km-long pipeline, the TAPI project is estimated to be constructed at the cost of $10 billion. It will cross through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and then reach India to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan to all the three nations. The project - vital for the Turkmenistan energy market - will make an entry of the Central Asian republic in the potential energy market of South Asia, a long-sought dream of Turkmenistan since the Soviet Union dissolution in 1991.

Earlier between 1995-2000, two energy companies, Unocal and Bridas, competed against each other to bag contracts for gas pipelines that would have transported Turkmenistan’s gas to the South Asia region but they failed as the Taliban and the Northern Alliance (United Front led by Ahmed Shah Massoud) in Afghanistan were involved in a brutal civil war.

The agreement for the transnational gas pipeline was signed in February 2014 between the governments of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. With 85 percent, Turkmenistan holds the majority stake in the project while the other three nations hold five percent each. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is funding the project.

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