Turkmenistan, Pakistan, India sign Trans-Afghan gas pipeline deal

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Turkmenistan – Representatives of Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and India have signed an agreement aimed at the construction of a pipeline that would cross Afghanistan to bring Turkmen gas to India and Pakistan. The US-backed deal was signed in the Turkmen Caspian resort of Avaza on May 23.

Representatives of India’s state-owned Gail Ltd. and Pakistan’s private Inter State Gas System joined Turkmenistan in signing the deal. The concept of the estimated $7.6 billion pipeline was first raised in the mid-1990s, but construction has yet to begin. Turkmen officials have said the proposed 1,735-kilometer pipeline could carry 33 billion cubic meters a year.

According to supporters of the project, the pipeline could be operational by 2016, if the security situation in Afghanistan is stable. The United States has backed the project for years.

For Washington, analysts say, the project offers a way to further isolate Iran, which has announced plans to try to build a separate gas pipeline with Pakistan. Analysts say Turkmenistan, meanwhile, is seeking to expand its gas exports beyond Russia and China. Some analysts have suggested that the pipeline project also signals a potential warming of economic ties between traditional rivals India and Pakistan.

Irfan Ashraf Qazi, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Petroleum Ministry, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that according to the agreement, Turkmenistan is planning to pump 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

Hesaid Afghanistan would get 0.5 billion cubic feet of this amount, while Pakistan and India would share the rest equally.

Qazi explained the planned pipeline route:

According to Qazi, the pipeline “will lead from the South Osman field of Turkmenistan to Herat in Afghanistan. (From Herat) to Kandahar, then to Chaman and Zhob [in Balochistan of Pakistan] and then to Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan (in the Punjab region of Pakistan).”

Plans for rates and fees for the pipeline have not yet been publicly disclosed.

The deal was signed after Pakistan and Iran earlier in the spring announced plans for a pipeline to deliver Iranian gas to Pakistan.

The United States warned Pakistan against pursuing that deal with Tehran, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying Islamabad could face “damaging” consequences from the United States over the project. At that time, Pakistani officials responded by saying Islamabad still wanted the project with Iran to go forward. (RFE/RL)

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