EXAMINING THE TAPI PIPELINE AND ITS IMPACT ON REGIONAL AND CROSS-REGIONAL RIVALRY

Abdol Reza FARAJI RAD, Heydar MORADI


Abdol Reza Faraji Rad, Assistant Professor at Islamic Azad University, Science & Research Unit (Tehran, Iran)

Heydar Moradi, M.A., Political Science, ECO College, Allameh Tabatabai University (Tehran, Iran)


Introduction

Before 1991, the states of Central Asia were marginal backwaters, republics of the Soviet Union that played neither a major role in the Cold War relations between the U.S.S.R. and the United States, nor in the Soviet Unions relations with the principal regional powers of Turkey, Iran, and China. But in the 1990s, the dissolution of the Soviet Union coincided with rediscovery of the energy resources of the Caspian Sea, attracting a wide range of international oil companies, including American majors, to the region. Eventually, the Caspian Basin became a point of tension in U.S.-Russian relations. In addition, Central Asia emerged as a zone of conflict between the regional and cross-regional powers. The events of 11 September, 2001 and the terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan brought Central Asia to the forefront of U.S. attention. The growing importance of natural gas imports to todays economies is compelling the world community to think anew about energy security.

The pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan was first proposed in the mid-1990s when Americas Unocal-led energy consortium and Argentinas Brides Company vied to sign a deal with the Taliban government in power at that time in Kabul. However, security considerations combined with international condemnation of the Taliban human rights abuses prompted both companies to pull out, leaving the project in the lurch. After the end of the Taliban regime, the idea was revived, and the three countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan) signed a new agreement at the end of 2002. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) conducted a feasibility study of the project and rendered a favorable verdict in 2005. Although a framework agreement on development of the project was signed by the heads of the three governments only in December 2002, the Asian Development Bank remains committed to the idea of building a 1,600-km gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

In April 2008, the three countries were joined by India to implement the same expanded project that became known as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. Finally, on 11 December, 2010, after nearly two years of intergovernmental deliberations, the Presidents of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and Indias Energy Minister signed a framework agreement at a summit in Ashghabad to build the 1,680-kilometer pipeline. It envisages constructing 1,680 km of pipeline with a total gas capacity of 90 million standard cubic meters per day (mscm/d). Some of this amount will be bought by Afghanistan. The TAPI project is expected to start in 2012 and should come on stream by 2016. The proposed pipeline will stretch from Turkmenistans gas fields and.


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