The participation of India in the multinational
cross border gas pipeline project originating from Turkmenistan, is
likely to be one of the significant outcome of the forthcoming high
level talks between India and Pakistan.
The energy starved India was always willing to join
the cross border pipeline to overcome its energy constraints, however,
it has some reservations to join in the projects obviously due to
strained relation with Pakistan as well as political instability in
Afghanistan from where the pipeline has to pass through. However, the
situation appears to be quite different following changing political
aura about this part of the world. It is learnt that Indians have
expressed their willingness to be a part of the $2.5 billion project
following assurances held out by Pakistan as well as other
international financing agencies for uninterrupted gas supply in
Another major development in this cross border
pipeline is the entry of Russia which has reportedly developed
understanding for buying natural gas from Ashkabad gas fields,
containing 45 trillion c.f. of natural gas. Pakistan has raised the
question that how much of the reserves would be available for the
pipeline because it is extremely important for the stakeholders. In
this regard, Turkmenistan government may submit a certificate
regarding availability of the gas reserves.
The experts are, however, of the opinion that the
gas pipeline would go ahead without any impediment because of plenty
of gas is available in that gasfield which would be enough for next 25
years requirement of the region.
The gas pipeline project will transmit about 3
billion cubic feet of natural gas from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan
and Pakistan and terming at Indian soil. Experts are of the opinion
that the project may generate lot of economic activity in the region
especially in Pakistan and India with the availability of
comparatively much cheaper fuel for the manufacturing sector.
In the recently concluded talks between the
representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan held at
Ashkabad, the route of the pipeline was approved.
This cross border pipeline is proposed to be laid
from Daulatabad gas fields through Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan
and would enter Pakistan via Quetta and will terminate at Multan.
However, if neighboring India also comes into the fold, the pipeline
would be extended through Punjab to Indian destination.
It may be recall that earlier Pakistan was favoring
the northern route, which ended at Lahore, passing through Peshawar,
and Kabul in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan's delegate at the meeting
supported the new route after discussing the cost differential between
the two routes.
The participants of the meeting also discussed the
marketing side of the gas and entrusted the Asian Development Bank (ADB)
to prepare the feasibility draft of the agreements. The draft will be
presented at the next meeting to be held at Ashkabad.
During the two-day meeting, the representatives
submitted proposals of their respective countries for the construction
of the pipeline. It may be mentioned that the Asian Development Bank
is acting as the guarantor of the project. The ADB provided $1.5
million assistance to prepare the feasibility of the project.
During the course of meeting, ADB representatives
submitted the first feasibility study of the project besides
discussing the commercial and cost aspects of the project. The bank
also discussed the proposals of different potential sponsors and
international financial institutions.
The ADB plans to invite bids from international
companies for the construction of the pipeline by November this year.
It is said that more than 40 different companies had expressed
interest for the construction of the project.
The ADB has also recommended hiring a consortium
for construction of the pipeline rather than a single company because
it will ensure commitment of the builder.
Pakistan has also suggested to the Asian
Development Bank that prior to pre-qualify companies for the building
of the project, it should obtain certification about the reserve
position of the natural gas at Daulatabad gas fields.
Pakistan moved the demand for reserve certification
in the meeting of the steering committee for the gas pipeline project.
Although ADB was willing to pre-qualify the four
companies but the bank has been asked to first get the certification
of the gas reserves before the next meeting of the steering committee.
Earlier, Turkmenistan had declared that Daulatabad
gas field has 45 trillion cubic feet proved reserves but now it has
reportedly dedicated some of the reserves of the field to Russia.
The next meeting probably to be held in Pakistan
appears to be of significance as with the certification about reserve
position and its availability for sale and purchase would determine
the future course of action about the project.
Pakistan has rightly asked for certification of the
available gas for sale before entering into such a huge project
involving interests of the stakeholders.