Making China Part of TAPI Pipeline?

Iqra Siddique
A week before, news surfaced on the media that China has shown interest to join TAPI gas pipeline project. China intends to alter its expensive import of gas through the hilly Turkmen-China border terrain by building a spur from Pakistan after the first Phase of the project is completed this year.
TAPI stands for the first initials of the countries that are a part of this project, namely, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. This Trans Afghanistan pipeline would export gas from Galkynysh gas field to Pakistan and finally into India. The pipeline has the capacity to transport 33 billion cubic meters per annum with a pressure of 10,000 kilo Pascals, along with 6 compressors. This $10 billion project would transport gas for next 30 years according to the agreement. The project is financed by Asian Development Bank but lack of finance had been a major hurdle in the progress of this project. Despite the fact that Russia, America and Saudi Arabia have promised to extend their economic umbrella to this project.
The project was initiated in the final years of last century by the oil companies to decrease their dependence on the Iranian and Russian pipeline networks. The project is of huge benefit for the oil markets, for it would allow the central Asian markets to export oil to the western markets. That is why the project receives huge support from the United States, Islamic Development Bank and Asian development bank
Over the years, time and again many issues have led to hampering the development of this project. Sometimes the states could not agree over the transit fee. Other times the Taliban in the Afghanistan and separatists in the Pakistan created problems. Otherwise the looming threat of lack of finance had always been there. This Trans Afghanistan pipeline is of much more utility to the unstable region, where regional actors do not encounter much more opportunities of cooperation.
China has been a major stake holder in almost all the projects underway in this region and around the globe as well; CPEC, OBOR, BRICS to name only a few. In Pakistan previous government has been boosting about the CPEC as a game changer but the term of agreement were never made public. Owing to this elusive nature of terms of agreement regarding CPEC, public is not sure how much prosperity the project would be bringing to the issue stricken country. However, one thing is evident that China is enjoying the loins’ share in CPEC.
China may seem to be very optimistic in joining this project but might not prove to be very beneficial for TAPI. By joining China would get an alternative to exporting gas from Turkmenistan which costs it much more than it would cost China by building a spur from Pakistan. China’s willingness to join TAPI may seem to be very alluring for Pakistan as it would help the financially stricken project. As it is obvious that Turkmenistan wants to diversify its gas exports to China through TAPI, so Turkmenistan might not like China’s involvement in the project. This project is a good opportunity for Pakistan to mend its ties with India and Afghanistan. Tensions might originate from the Indian side as a result of China joining the project, thus hampering the progress and utility of TAPI. Secondly China should not be allowed to join, to avoid Chinese dominance in every matter. China is already enjoying a fair share of dominance in CPEC project. Pakistan should not always fall for the seemingly lucrative offers, rather it should look for long term consequences. Pakistan should not always give in to Chinese intentions. If the energy requirements are not fulfilled with TAPI, Pakistan may think of initiating a gas pipeline project with Iran. Till then the relation between Iran and America might placate.
Pakistan is currently a part of Iran Pakistan pipeline, whose progress was withheld during the tenure of last government owing to the unfavorable circumstances. That is approximately $7.5 billion project. Iran has completed its side of IP gas pipeline but Pakistan is yet to start working on the project. The looming threat of US sanctions is hampering the progress of IP gas pipeline project. We cannot stake our national interest to win the favors of our great power patrons.  Pakistan is in dire need to establish its friendly relations with neighboring Iran. Natural gas resources of Pakistan are depleting quickly, gas imported via TAPI might not be enough for rapidly growing Pakistani population. Pakistan needs to pursue long-term policy objectives that have never been a priority of Pakistani leadership.
The writer is a student of BS-IR (VII Semester) at Quaid i Azam University, Islamabad.
DisclaimerViews expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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