Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India take part in ground-breaking of $10 bn project Says Islamabad has no control over Taliban but whatever influence it has will be used for regional peace, progress
MARY, Turkmenistan: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Sunday said that the $10 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project would change the fate of the region.
He joined the regional leaders to formally launch work on the historic TAPI pipeline, the largest gas pipeline project in the region.
The groundbreaking ceremony of what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the ‘trailblazing project’, was held near the city of Mary, an industrial city of the Central Asian state.
The prime minister said that Pakistan had no control over the Afghan Taliban but whatever influence it had would be used for the peace and prosperity of the region. The prime minister was joined by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimohamedow and Indian Vice President Muhammad Hamid Ansari in inaugurating the work on the 1,814-kilometer pipeline by pushing the button.
The four leaders also put their signatures on the pipeline to record the historical moment.
Upon completion by 2019, the project will supply Pakistan 1325mmcfd (million cubic feet per day) supply of natural gas to help mitigate its energy crisis.
Addressing the ceremony, the prime minister said that the presence of regional leaders at the groundbreaking ceremony clearly signalled the importance they attached to this `game changing project’ and their commitment for its early completion. He said it was a momentous day that an achievement had been made possible through the perseverance, patience and collective endeavours of all the stakeholders.
He also thanked the Turkmen president without whose involvement and keen interest, the project could not have seen rapid progress.
He also congratulated the Indian and Afghan leadership on their commitment to make the gas pipeline a success.
“TAPI is not just a gas transit initiative connecting energy-rich Central Asia with energy starved South Asia but a trailblazing project,” the prime minister said, adding it would open up door to regional economic progress and integration.
Nawaz Sharif said the flagship project would usher in a new era of transformation of the lives of millions of people making the TAPI a symbol of shared prosperity and socio-economic development.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the TAPI was of great significance for Pakistan’s energy outlook, besides being a vital component of his government’s efforts to mitigate the country’s energy crisis through import of natural gas and electricity.
He said that his government was also working on additional power projects as work on CASA-1000 was being carried out expeditiously.
“Regional connectivity subject is close to my heart. It is through the projects like TAPI, we can join hands for pursuing a common goal of strengthening of peace and prosperity in our region,” he added.
Referring to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the prime minister said the most promising element of regional connectivity was recently launched as a package of multiple infrastructure and development projects.
He said that Pakistan also encouraged other countries in the region to take advantage of this project that would provide the shortest route through its seaports to Central Asia.
On the occasion, the presidents of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and vice president of India also spoke and said that it would create a win-win situation for the component countries by opening new vistas of economic opportunities.
Starting from Turkmenistan’s Galkynys gas field, the pipeline will pass along the Kandahar-Herat Highway, and moving through Pakistan, it will culminate at the Indian town of Fazilka, near the Pak-Indian border.
It will benefit around 1.5 billion people in the area and the ‘blue fuel’ known in the Turkmen’s local dialect will continue flowing by 33 billion cusec meters per annum.
A memorandum of understanding for supply of power from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan was also signed by leaders of the three countries.
Earlier, at Mary city airport the Turkmen president received Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The four leaders also had a brief meeting and discussed matters of mutual interest. A traditional performance of Akhalteke horses and art masters on the occasion added colours of jubilation to the historical event. Earlier, Pakistan and Turkmenistan reaffirmed their resolve to further strengthen bilateral relationship for the benefit of both the countries.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow at a meeting in Ashgabat said the TAPI gas pipeline project would strengthen relations between the two countries.
Nawaz Sharif said the TAPI project would bring peace and promote trade in the region. The prime minister said that Pakistan attached great importance to the TAPI project. Later, during an interview with media persons on board the aircraft during his return journey, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the world’s future hinged upon this region due to its fast growing trade potential and greater connectivity linking Central Asian Republics with South Asia and China.
He said the TAPI project had created a win-win situation for the economies of its component countries. He said about 2 to 3 billion people lived alone in South Asia and China with unprecedented potential to rise as a hub of the world’s rapid growing economies. It was his cherished dream to forge strong connectivity and relationship with energy rich Central Asia and South Asia, he added.
With the completion of the TAPI the prime minister said the energy requirements of Pakistan would be met. It would be a game changer as the country would be able to get 1.3 billion cubic feet gas annually from it. With the clean energy supply, the power plants would work efficiently producing inexpensive power when compared to oil-run units. About 70 percent of the energy needs would be met with this project, he added.
Annually one billion dollar could be saved which was by no means a little saving, he said.
To a question, the prime minister said that he had also talked to the presidents of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan over his vision of enhanced connectivity and they also appreciated and supported it. Every country should safeguard its economic interests and nations should work for peace.
“Nowadays economic interests rule the world,” he said and added, “Politics revolves round economy and without a sound economy there is no progress. About recent developments on Pak-India ties, Nawaz Sharif said they had taken a firm stand on the interests of Pakistan. He maintained that Pakistan wanted good ties with all neighbours including Afghanistan and India. The relationship with these countries unfortunately remained uneven in the last 65 years but now it was hoped that the same would be settled. “The issues can be settled on a negotiation table,” he said and added, “On our principles we are firm. In Paris, I told Indian PM Modi if you wanted to talk, we would also talk.”
It was followed by a meeting of NSAs (National Security Advisers) in Bangkok and then a visit of Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan improved things. The joint declaration was good and it is hoped that it would move forward, he added.
About Afghanistan, the prime minister said that he had told Afghan President Ghani that they would help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. But he made it clear that they had absolutely no control over them only through their influence to some extent could they bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, he added. Nawaz Sharif said he had held bilateral, trilateral and quad lateral meetings with heads of different countries on the Afghan issue together which were a part of Pakistan’s continuing efforts.
He, however, said it was not the sole responsibility of Pakistan as other countries should also share their responsibility in this regard. He wondered how Pakistan could tolerate terrorism in someone’s country when it had remained a victim of the menace itself in which the nation rendered unprecedented sacrifices besides its economy suffered colossal loss.
He said the Zarb-e-Azb operation was launched by his government as its moral obligation and not under any outer influence. The prime minister said that under a wide political consensus in the shape of the National Action Plan the Constitution was amended and now the military courts were delivering verdicts. “Peace has been restored in Karachi and the residents there are witness to it. The world leaders have also appreciated the government’s efforts in rooting out terrorism,” he added.