TAPI Gas Pipeline Expected to Meet India’s Energy Needs

India signing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, is expected to meet the demand-supply shortage of natural gas in the country. Rough estimates have put the current demand of natural gas in the country at nearly 260 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) whereas the supply is about 170 mmscmd.

Disregarding concerns about Islamic militancy, Presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan along with Murli Deora, petroleum minister, signed the inter-governmental agreement lat year for constructing the 1,735 km long natural gas pipeline which connects all four countries. The pipeline will supply 33 billion cft of Turkmen gas, each year, from Dauletabad gas fields to India and Pakistan via the southern provinces of Afghanistan.

The TAPI project has been long contemplated. But practical complications, notably Afghanistan’s chronic instability, had prevented the interested parties to take a concrete step to convert it to a reality.

New Delhi, for long, had been exploring several options to meet its demand for natural gas. It had long negotiated with Tehran for the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project, which, till now, has remained mostly on paper. The volatile domestic condition of Pakistan, beset with terrorism, militancy and insurgency and a falling-apart administration, had created doubts in the south block about the viability, leave alone security, of the project. The pipeline was slated to cut through Pak heartland before entering India and Islamabad could have earned millions as transit fee.

But having realised that the IPI project is likely to remain a pipe dream, New Delhi quickly joined the TAPI project. Though the project involves Islamabad, the pipeline would enter India via Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. Nevertheless, south Afghanistan, through which the pipeline is slated to pass, is no less dangerous than Pakistan with Islamic terror groups and the Taliban, active in the region. However, the route through Kandahar and Heart, is unlikely to be difficult for Afghan National Security Forces to control. The US military progress has reportedly improved along the route ever since the agreement was signed. Besides, it’s nonetheless a strategic interest with support from the local inhabitants likely to increase. Wahidullah Shahrani, the Afghan minister for mines has said that the project is very crucial for his country and nearly 7,000 security personnel would be deployed for safeguarding the entire length of the pipeline in Afghanistan.

India currently imports nearly 70 per cent of its energy needs, mostly from the Middle East. Experts have estimated that by 2025, the country would be the third largest importer of energy with nearly 90 per cent of its requirement supplied from abroad. While TAPI is expected to meet to a large extent, ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of the energy major, is exploring several opportunities abroad to satiate the country’s ever burgeoning need for oil and natural gas. The coal reserves in the country are fat depleting and to fuel the power plants across the country, natural gas remains the best option. New Delhi however needs to exert caution to see that it doesn’t engage in over-ambitious projects like the IPI pipeline.

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