Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India form part of the project. Afghan mines minister says all parties perceive the project positively.

The long-awaited Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project is heading for a breakthrough during a proposed four-nation summit at Ashgabat next month, a senior Afghan minister has said.

Afghanistan’s minister of mines, Wahidulah Shahrani, told The Hindu on the sidelines of a major investment conference on Afghanistan in Dubai that the heads of government of the four participating countries are expected to meet in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital, in the second week of December. “Our team is already in Ashgabat to prepare for this meeting,” he said. Mr. Shahrani pointed out that an “inter-governmental agreement” is expected to be signed during the Ashgabat summit.

Construction of the pipeline will commence soon after, and will be completed by 2013-14, at a cost of around $6.5 billion. Asked whether tensions between India and Pakistan will come in the way of the project, he said: “All parties perceive the project as positive.”

The 1640-km Asian Development Bank (ADB) backed pipeline will draw gas from Turkmenistan’s Daulatabad gas field. Once

inside Afghanistan, it will run alongside the Herat-Kandahar highway, before heading towards Multan in Pakistan via Quetta.

The pipeline will terminate in India at Fazilka in Punjab. Reuters news agency, citing an Afghan government source had previously reported that reviving TAPI had been on the agenda of talks between Turkmenistan’s President, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai during their mid-September meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Mr. Shahrani said that development of energy resources had emerged as a major thrust area for Afghanistan’s development. The minister added that preparations had been made to develop next year onwards, the Shibergan gas field, which has reserves up to eight trillion cubic feet in northern Afghanistan. The Kashgari oil block in the Amu Darya basin and the Mazar-e-Sharif reserves oil reserves were also poised for development.

With mineral deposits valued at $3 trillion, Afghanistan has emerged as a mining heavyweight, Mr. Shahrani said during a presentation. In the next 15 years, mining would generate revenues of $3.5 billion, which would go a long way, in liberating Afghanistan from the foreign aid cycle, he observed.

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