ISLAMABAD: After pulling out of the Iran-based gas pipeline project, top government officials fear that India might pull off a similar stunt with the $7.5 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.
A few federal ministers expressed these concerns on Thursday in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet, according to sources.
India may pull out of the project just as it did with Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline – now called just IP – after acquiring civil nuclear technology from the US. The top economic decision-making body ECC also directed the petroleum ministry to hold talks and clear out the uncertainty.
“We have informed ECC that India is keen on TAPI gas pipeline project,” Petroleum Secretary Ijaz Chaudhry said adding that India’s involvement in TAPI gas pipeline project was discussed in the ECC meeting. Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain also told the Express Tribune that ECC was informed that India was interested in TAPI gas pipeline project.
Ministry of Petroleum moved a summary on Thursday seeking approval of the draft of Gas Sales Purchase Agreement (GSPA) for execution by Inter Gas Systems (Pvt) Ltd with Turkmenistan including gas price formula and gas price review mechanism.
The pipeline initially aimed at bringing natural gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
However, Afghanistan in February told Pakistan that it does not want gas supply from the project anymore and only transit fee for transportation of gas through
its territory. As per the feasibility study, the design capacity of the pipeline is 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Petroleum ministry officials informed the ECC that capital cost of the project was originally estimated at $3.3 billion in 2004, however, fluctuation in steel and construction material till 2008 has more than doubled it to $7.6 billion. The project will take between four to five years to complete after signing of the Gas Sales Purchase Agreement.
The Economic Coordination Committee approved gas sale purchase agreement for the US-backed gas pipeline on Thursday and endorsed the gas price at 70% of crude price, cheaper than the 78% parity to be purchased from Iran.
With one agreement done, next round of talks will start on Monday in Islamabad between India, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the transit fee.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.