Bonhomie marks opening of TAPI gas pipeline

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Work for the project, created to transfer 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Galkynysh natural gas reserve of Turkmenistan annually along an 1,800 km route to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan, was formally inaugurated at a ceremony Friday.

Turkmenistan, which sits on the world's fourth-largest gas reserves, started building its section of the pipeline in December 2015.

The first leg of the ceremony to held in Serhetabat, Turkmenistan will be attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Malikgulyevich Berdimuhamedov, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani and Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar, the Foreign Office said in a statement. "The South Asia is being connected with the Central Asia through Afghanistan after more than a century of separation", Ghani said.

And he said work on the Turkmen section of the pipeline was still ongoing.

The Prime Minister said the project would help meet 10 percent of Pakistan's energy needs, 20 percent of its natural gas requirements and would be equivalent to its nine million tonnes of imports.

"We are, however, strongly committed to TAPI pipeline project", Akbar was quoted as saying.

The Afghan government see the pipeline project as an economic milestone, with Kabul expected to earn up to US$500 million/y in transit duties and over 25 000 local jobs created.

Security has been a leading concern leading up to the inauguration as Afghanistan claims to have devised a detailed security plan to protect the pipeline construction as well as the pipeline.

The project is more than the sum of four nations' interests and creates a benchmark for regional cooperation, he added during an implementation committee meeting in Turkmenistan.

The pipeline mostly runs through parts of southwestern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgency controls or influences many districts.

The prime minister reiterated Pakistan's full support to Turkmenistan's policy of permanent neutrality and President Berdimuhamadov's initiatives at the UN. He said the Turkmen president owing to his vision converted the TAPI project into an energy and communications corridor which would have IT connectivity, besides road and rail links.

The Prime Minister also congratulated the ADB for its role in making the project a reality.