Uzbekistan has committed to take part in constructing the natural gas pipeline being built from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India, or TAPI, adding much-needed support to a project whose feasibility has often been called into doubt.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev told reporters on April 23 after meeting with his Turkmen counterpart in Tashkent that his government is still studying how it can contribute.
“Representatives of Uzbekistan will soon travel to Turkmenistan to specify within what parameters they will take part in the project,” Mirziyoyev said.
There have been no details about the scale any assistance might assume, although one Tashkent-based analyst speaking to Eurasianet speculated that it would likely be modest.
All the same, the announcement will come as especially welcome news to Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who was reportedly hoping to use his trip to Uzbekistan as a chance to lobby for assistance. RFE/RL’s Turkmen service cited an official in Ashgabat as saying that Berdymukhamedov was angling for credit from Uzbekistan.
TAPI is designed to span more than 1,800 kilometers, starting from the Galkynysh mega-field in Turkmenistan and terminate in the town of Fazilka in India’s Punjab State. The pipeline would be able to carry up to 33 billion cubic meters of gas every year. Of that volume, India and Pakistan would buy around 14 billion cubic meters apiece, with the remaining 5 billion going to Afghanistan.
The Afghan component has always been seen as the element most likely to put the kibosh on the whole enterprise, although prospects did appear to slightly improve in late February when a self-identified spokesman for the Taliban declared that the insurgent group would pledge its support for the project.
If the security issue could be even somewhat satisfactorily settled that would leave only the small matter of funding. Turkmenistan, which is taking the lead on construction, has been characteristically secretive about the project, making landing on an accurate price tag quite challenging. One figure that has been thrown about is $10 billion, which is the kind of money none of the countries involved will be able or willing to cough up anytime soon.
In other related business, Mirziyoyev said that he and his Turkmen colleague signed $200 million worth of trade and economic deals during Berdymukhamedov’s visit.