Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who on Wednesday became the first Minister of the Narendra Modi government to visit Pakistan, has called for early finalisation of the consortium leader for expeditious implementation of the 1,800-km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project in limbo for almost a decade.
Officials of the External Affairs Ministry said Mr. Pradhan’s visit was in his capacity as Minister to the “multilateral” meeting, even so the visit and his one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is the first of its kind since India cancelled the Foreign Secretary talks in July 2014.
Mr. Pradhan, who was in Islamabad to attend the 20th steering committee meeting of the TAPI project, also called on Mr. Sharif along with the TAPI Petroleum Ministers.
“The very fact that India has had regular ministerial representation at the TAPI steering committee meeting bears testimony to the importance attached by the government to this project despite the apprehensions about the geo-political situation and security scenario involving the project,” an official statement said.
Mr. Pradhan said a mutually acceptable consortium leader was a vital step towards implementing the project in a time-bound manner.
He reiterated India’s commitment to source natural gas from Turkmenistan through the pipeline. Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth largest proven gas reserves.
The pipeline will allow the landlocked country to export up to 33 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India over 30 years.
He said the TAPI project would contribute to building a national gas grid as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The state gas companies of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have established a company that will build, own and operate the pipeline.
The countries have to select a commercial consortium leader to spearhead its construction and operation. The commercial consortium leader will take a substantial stake in the company. Mr. Pradhan met his Afghanistan counterpart on the sidelines of the steering committee meeting.