TAPI is a dream come true for India: Ansari

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:12 am IST

Published - December 12, 2015 08:25 pm IST - ASHGABAT

Vice-President Hamid Ansari pays tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Ashgabat in Turkmenistan on Saturday. Photo: PTI

Vice-President Hamid Ansari pays tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Ashgabat in Turkmenistan on Saturday. Photo: PTI

Turkmenistan is confident of overcoming security challenges to the TAPI pipeline project, Vice President Hamid Ansari said after meeting with the President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in Ashgabat. “The President of Turkmenistan, is very confident, and he thinks it can be done,” Mr. Ansari told The Hindu in response to concerns over Taliban attacks in Afghanistan and the situation in Pakistan.

Calling the $10 billion, 1735 km long TAPI pipeline project “one of those great ideas in regional cooperation, that we have only dreamt of, that hasn’t materialized until now,” Mr. Ansari said he was “very optimistic” that “things will begin to roll” after the groundbreaking ceremony to be held on Sunday, that will also be attended by Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.

Speaking to The Hindu in a brief interaction at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial park in Ashgabat city centre, that was inaugurated earlier this year by PM Modi, Vice-President Ansari also said that the TAPI project would not affect India’s plans to explore alternative pipelines from Iran via Oman in an undersea link, or the Iran-Pakistan-India project. “From India’s point of view, we are going to be perpetually energy-short. For us, the choice is not between this source or that source, for us the option is: every possible source. So this is not excluded nor is any other source excluded,” Mr. Ansari said.

Another possible question for the TAPI project, which has slowed for a lack of international financial backers, is also being resolved, said officials ahead of the TAPI groundbreaking. While ADB is now a transactional advisor to the project, atleast one UAE company Dragon Oil is said to be in negotiations to be a project partner. Earlier this month, a senior Pakistani official also disclosed that China would soon express its interest in investing in the project to help projects under the $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The development could raise red flags for India, that has objected to the CPEC project bilaterally, as well as in External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s speech at the UN in September.

Speaking at a conference in Ashgabat, PM Nawaz Sharif said that regional connectivity would allow South Asia to prosper, and said that the CPEC “will go a long way in facilitating that connectivity”. Turkmenistan, which supplies China more than half its natural gas output every year, has borrowed about $10 billion from China to develop the Galkynysh gas fields, that will provide the gas for TAPI. However, Indian officials dismissed the reports of Chinese involvement in the TAPI project. “There are only four countries in this project at present,” said Secretary (West) Navtej Sarna, when asked by The Hindu.

On Sunday, Mr. Sharif and Mr. Ansari attended a conference marking the 20th Anniversary of Turkmenistan’s declaration of “permanent neutrality” after declaring independence from the Soviet Union. Speaking at the conference, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao said China “stands ready to… take the opportunity of jointly building the Silk Route Economic Belt” in various fields including energy. On Sunday the leaders of TAPI will fly to Mary (Marv), a Turkmen town on the original Chinese silk route, to formally begin the pipeline project.

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