Extending Indian diplomacy to Central Asia, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, on her three-day visit to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, met the country’s President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, and signed joint agreements in key bilateral issues, the highlight of which was the positive movement on the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project.
In a bid to strengthen energy cooperation, fresh discussions on the TAPI project (which has long been in limbo owing to instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and see- saw in Indo-Pak relations) bore fruit, with construction set to begin this year. Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves, and is keen to access the energy starved markets of Pakistan and India. As per the agreements reached, the construction is set to begin this year and the pipeline is expected to be operational by 2018. Also, ONGC Videsh is to set up a representative office in Ashgabat.
The pipeline is to have initial capacity of 33 billion cubic meters a year. It shall stretch for about 1,800 km- carrying gas from Turkenistan’s Galkynysh gas fields (supposed to have the world’s second largest gas reserves by volume) through Herat and Kandahar (in Afghanistan) and Multan and Quetta (in Pakistan), before entering Fazilka in Punjab, India.
Updating on other developments, the spokesperson of India’s External Affairs Ministry (MEA), Syed Akbaruddin, tweeted- “India to provide further support to Turkmenistan in HRD in IT, industrial training, hydrocarbon, and petrochemical sectors.” Ms Swaraj added that both countries had agreed to set up a joint fertilizer factory to enhance cooperation in mineral resources. There has also been an agreement to upgrade the Turkmen Polytechnic, Ashgabat, with the assistance of HMTI, Bangalore.
This was the fifth India-Turkmenistan Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation, since diplomatic relations were established after Turkmenistan was formed post the Soviet disintegration in 1991. The fourth IGC had been held in New Delhi on January, 2013. The visit has laid the groundwork for Mr Modi’s visit to the country, expected in July this year.
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