Monday, November 01, 2010

the spice must flow...,


Video - The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline will be an energy bridge between Central and South Asia.

AsiaTimes | In the Orient, offspring don't rebuke parents, even if the latter are at fault - especially in the post-Soviet space where Marxian formalism continues to prevail as political culture. The sort of stern public rebuke bordering on short shrift that Ashgabat administered to Moscow is extraordinary.

But then, Moscow tested Turkmen patience by trying to create confusion about Ashgabat's policy of positive "neutrality" - building energy bridges to the West alongside its thriving cooperation with Russia and China.

On Thursday, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry bluntly rejected any role for Russia in the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, commonly known as TAPI. Ashgabat alleged that Moscow is spreading calumnies and expressed the hope that "future statements by Russian officials will be guided by a sense of responsibility and reality".

The reference was to a friendly and seemingly helpful statement by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin (who accompanied President Dmitry Medvedev to the Turkmen capital last weekend) that Russian participation in the TAPI figured in the latest Russian-Turkmen summit talks and "Gazprom may participate in this project in any capacity - builder, designer, participant, etc ... If Gazprom becomes a participant, then we will study possibilities of working in gas sales."

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry said, "Turkmenistan views such statements as an attempt to hamper the normal course of our country's cooperation in the energy sector and call into question its obligations to its partners." It added that there was "no agreement whatsoever" regarding Russian participation in the TAPI.

The TAPI presents a knot of paradoxes and the Russians who hold the pulse of the Central Asian energy scene would have sensed by now that Uncle Sam is close to untying the knot, finally, after a decade-and-a-half of sheer perseverance. The TAPI falls within the first circle of the Caspian great game. When it appears that Russia all but checkmated the United States and the European Union's plans to advance trans-Caspian energy projects bypassing Russia, a thrust appears from the south and east opening up stunning possibilities for the West.

Russia promptly began slouching toward the TAPI - which, incidentally, was originally a Soviet idea but was appropriated by the United States no sooner than the USSR disintegrated - against the backdrop of renewed interest in the project recently among regional powers amid the growing possibility that Afghan peace talks might reconcile the Taliban and that despite the Kashmir problem, Pakistan and India wouldn't mind tangoing.

The TAPI pipeline runs on a roughly 1,600-kilometer route along the ancient Silk Road from Turkmenistan's fabulous Dauletabad gas fields on the Afghan border to Herat in western Afghanistan, then onto Helmand and Kandahar, entering Pakistan's Quetta and turning east toward Multan, and ending up in Fazilka on the Indian side of Pakistan's eastern border. An updated Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimate of 2008 put the project cost for the pipeline with an output of 33 bcm annually at $7.6 billion.

The signals from Ashgabat, Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi in recent weeks uniformly underscored that the TAPI is in the final stage of take-off. India unambiguously signed up in August. On Wednesday, the Pakistan government gave approval to the project at a cabinet meeting in Islamabad. The ADB is open to financing the project and is expected to be the project's "secretariat".

As things stand, there could be a meeting of the political leaderships of the four participating countries in December to formally kick-start the TAPI.