The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is expected to get a decisive push with Ashgabat stepping up efforts for a summit meeting next month.
The initiative by Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has led to his diplomats attempting to find a window that will ensure a summit meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat.
Mr. Berdymukhammedov had intensive discussions on the pipeline with Dr. Singh during his maiden visit to the country in May this year, government sources said.
With Iran facing sanctions, Turkmenistan understood that the fate of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline was uncertain. The visit was utilised by the Turkmen President to seek an assurance on speeding up deliberations, the sources said.
This led to accelerated deliberations by all sides since September, and culminated in Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora and heads of government of the other three participating countries meeting in Ashgabat last week to ink the Inter-Government Agreement (IGA) and the Gas Pipeline Transmission Agreement.
The IGA enjoins the four governments to provide all support including security for the pipeline.
With the Asian Development Bank backing the TAPI project unlike the IPI pipeline, sources are confident that the four countries would be able to arrive at an early decision on some substantive issues such as pricing. These will be preceded by talks on security, the mechanics of construction, a global tender and a business model.
Besides putting the IPI pipeline in the cold storage, the TAPI pipeline could also push back moves to bring Turkmenistan gas via northern Iran. Talks were held earlier in this respect on exchanging it with Iranian gas, which would have been sent to India and other countries from an under-sea pipeline. This pipeline would have been one of the branches of a Middle-East natural gas gathering system.