Pakistan, Turkmenistan Accelerate Gas Pipeline Preparations 

Pakistan, Turkmenistan Accelerate  Gas Pipeline Preparations Pakistan, Turkmenistan Accelerate  Gas Pipeline Preparations 

The construction of a $10 billion gas pipeline stretching from Central to South Asia is set to begin in December, Pakistani officials said on Monday after meeting with a delegation from Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have long planned the ambitious project to meet growing energy needs in the three South Asian countries, but administrative issues and unrest in Afghanistan have so far delayed its realization, AFP reported.

The Turkmen authorities, however, on Monday told Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to launch the pipeline—dubbed TAPI—this year. "The ground-breaking ceremony of TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) gas pipeline project will be held in December this year," a government statement said.

But the project is politically complex, requiring cooperation between at least four governments, and logistically challenging, as the pipeline would pass through areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan plagued by Taliban and separatist insurgents.

France's Total was working to take the lead on TAPI, but Russia is also said to have expressed interest. Pakistan, struggling to meet its ever-increasing energy demands, has already renewed efforts to finish its under-construction pipeline from Iran after the landmark deal on Iran's nuclear program because sanctions on the oil- and gas-rich country had jeopardized this project.

The South Asian state is desperate for solutions to a long-running power crisis that has sapped economic growth and left its 200 million inhabitants fuming over incessant electricity cuts.

The $7.5-billion Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline was inaugurated with great fanfare in March 2013—but the project immediately hit quicksand in the form of international sanctions on Tehran, which meant cash-strapped Pakistan struggled to raise the money to build its side.

Sanctions on IP Pipeline Remain

The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project will not yet benefit from the nuclear agreement that may ease economic sanctions on Tehran, says the US State Department.

On July 14, the United States and five other world powers signed a deal with Iran, which would end international economic sanctions on Tehran if it abandoned its nuclear program, claimed local media sources.

Tariq Fatemi, the prime minister’s special advisor on foreign affairs, told a think-tank in Washington last week that Pakistan welcomed the deal because it would open the doors for economic cooperation with Iran, including the construction of a pipeline to bring natural gas for the energy-starved South Asian nation.