New Delhi: Will
India's attempt to obtain natural gas from Turkmenistan to augment
its energy security requirements fructify? Political stability in
transit countries were key to the realisation of the ambitous $10
billion, 1,700 km pipeline project that is envisaged to bring gas
from Central Asia to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan, both
in throes of political turmoil and civil strife.
All that Turkmen Ambassador Parakhat H. Durdyev would commit to
was delivery of gas at his country's border.
At the conference, organised by the Institute of Defence Studies
and Analyses (IDSA), on increasing India's linkages with Central
Asia, Durdyev said responding to a question on the security of the
pipeline: "We will deliver the gas at the border."
To this, former Indian foreign secretary K. Raghunath, who was
chairing the session, added: "Sovereign countries cannot be
expected to ensure security beyond their borders."
Amin Saikal, director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies
at the Australian National University, was more forthright.
"As long as there is no stability (in Afghanistan and Pakistan),
such projects are not feasible. Unless there is stability and
security, these projects will remain on paper," he contended.
Saikal was supported by Aftab Kazi of Johns Hopkins University who
also felt that intra-Afghan politics was muddying the waters for
such projects that could be lucrative for the Afghan ecnomy.
"One view is that the pipeline should come up to Kandahar (in
southern Afghanistan) before entering Pakistan. Another view is
that it should branch off in the north. Which view will prevail?"
Mohammad Afzal, India's former ambassador to Ashkabad during whose
tenure the four-country agreement on the TAPI (Turkmenistan,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) pipeline was inked, insists Central
Asian gas will become a reality for India, security concerns
"The other day, there was a blast in a pipeline carrying gas from
Central Asia to Russia. It was repaired in about 10 days. So what
if there is a blast in the pipeline in Afghanistan? It will be
quickly repaired," Afzal, who did not participate in the
conference, told IANS.
"If tomorrow there is a blast in a building occupied by a VIP,
will that building stop being used?" he asked.
Pointing to the major stakes Afghanistan had in the project, he
had no doubt of its fruition.
"Afghanistan will earn heavy transit fees from the pipeline. It
will also generate 3,000 security-related jobs. One day, come what
may, the pipeline will become a reality," Afzal said.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at email@example.com)