Turkmentistan announced over the weekend that it intends to begin construction on a gas pipeline from the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan border to the Herat offtake point in Afghanistan, a fundamental part of the long-awaited Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) transboundary gas pipeline project.
The original project started on 15 March 1995 when an inaugural memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan for a pipeline project was signed. This project was promoted by Argentinian company Bridas Corporation. The U.S. company Unocal, in conjunction with the Saudi oil company Delta, promoted an alternative project without Bridas' involvement. On 21 October 1995, these two companies signed a separate agreement with Turkmenistan's president Saparmurat Niyazov. In August 1996, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) consortium for construction of a pipeline, led by Unocal, was formed. On 27 October 1997, CentGas was incorporated in formal signing ceremonies in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, by several international oil companies along with the Government of Turkmenistan.
Yet development has been stymied over the years by geopolitical fallout, failure to agree on transit fees between parties to the accord, concern about building the pipeline in a part of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban and finally, presently, the Corona virus.
Pakistan is interested in rebuilding international-standard gas infrastructure in Afghanistan and is extending full support at every level to commence such development activities.
The Turkmen and the Pakistanis also agreed to finalise the Host Government Agreement by the end of this year. The Turkmen delegation revealed that their negotiations with international lending agencies and export credit agencies were going on well.
Pakistan hopes to have a TAPI project groundbreaking in Pakistan after the finalisation of all issues under discussion, which it expects during the course of 2021.