Cabinet note prepared on Turkmenistan gas pipeline

Vol 9, PW 26 (20 Apr 06) People & Policy

Irans growing isolation has put the spotlight on an alternative source of piped natural gas for India: Turkmenistan.

PETROWATCH learns the oil ministry has prepared a draft Note for approval by other ministries before India joins ongoing discussions on a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan, or TAP. Prepared some two weeks ago, the Note awaits approval by oil secretary MS Srinivasan and oil minister Murli Deora before circulation to other ministries for suggestions.

A ministry source tells us that, the secretary and the minister have just returned from the NELP-VI roadshows and the draft must first be vetted by them. Once suggestions or comments are received from other ministries these will be incorporated into the Note before it is sent to Cabinet for approval.

We will ask for approval to join the TAP steering committee, we hear. Whether India eventually joins the project or not depends on a satisfactory conclusion of discussions on security, price, project structure and other technical details.

This is true of this project as well as the Iran pipeline to India. In March this year, the concluding session of the TAP technical committee in Ashkabad gave India a three-month deadline till mid-May 2006 to join the steering committee.

Representatives from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan attended the technical committee meeting at which India was present only as an observer. Prior to this, India had attended the 9th meeting of the steering committee as an observer, also held in Ashkabad.

At this meeting, TAP promoter the Asian Development Bank along with country promoters Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan strongly supported Indias participation in the project, arguing that Delhis direct involvement would give it more credibility and open the way to a huge market for Turkmenistan gas.