Can Modi’s Visit Move TAPI Forward?

Can Modi’s Visit Move TAPI Forward?Can Modi’s Visit Move TAPI Forward?

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swings through Central Asia over the next week, his docket looks to be full. While there’s plenty on Modi’s agenda, there is one project that helps encapsulates India’s sputtering relationship with the region.

The $10 billion, 1,078-mile Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline set to transit Turkmen gas to customers in the three southern states, has long stood as something of an idealized project.

While Turkmenistan needs to diversify its gas exports away from Beijing, and while Afghanistan-Pakistan-India all require Turkmen gas for economic expansion, the project has not congealed in a way any of them want, Diplomat reported.

Turkmenistan remains wary of allowing a foreign major to access its infrastructure. India and Pakistan have their own tensions that barely require detailing. And Afghanistan’s security remains, at best, questionable. The Chinese factor also plays a role, with Beijing unwilling to see Ashgabat casting about for other patrons, while Iran may soon become an alternate route for Turkmenistan to shuttle its gas.

As such, Modi’s visit to Turkmenistan this week may serve as one of the best opportunities to jump-start the flagging project. According to The Hindu, Turkmen officials are looking forward to speaking with Modi about TAPI’s prospects. Indeed, officials are so eager that Turkmenistan ambassador Parakhat Durdyev apparently ruled out any further delays due to security concerns.

“There should be no excuses,” Durdyev recently said. “Afghanistan is getting more and more involved, Pakistan has no reasons to create problems.”

According to the report, Durdyev added that “all the beneficiary countries are on the same page pushing for early implementation of the project.”

Durdyev’s comments may help point to renewed focus on the Turkmen side to actually push the project toward breaking ground. The outcome of Modi’s visit remains to be seen. But TAPI may finally see the kick it needs, from officials at both ends of the pipeline.