US support makes Turkmenistan pipeline attractive

Vol 9, PW 14 (20 Oct 05) People & Policy

American support for the Turkmenistan to Pakistan pipeline through Afghanistan gives it a stronger chance of success than the competing proposal from Iran.

India, with its booming but gas-starved economy, and vast industrial and commercial hinterland, is a dream market for both projects. But during her visit to this region earlier in the year, US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice openly supported the Turkmenistan pipeline over the Iranian proposal.

For Turkmenistan, this is good news. Land-locked and in search of new markets, a pipeline to Pakistan and India would serve as a counterweight to Russia and Ukraine, its existing markets.

United Nations support is also strong for the Turkmenistan pipeline. In December 2003, a study by the United Nations Development Programme described the 2150-km pipeline from Daulatabad through Afghanistan to Multan in Pakistan and on to Delhi as the shortest pipeline of all onshore and offshore options.

UNDP believes there are strong complementarities between Turkmenistan and the (Indian) sub-continent in the gas sector.It is in the greater interest of the region that an outlet is provided for the stranded Turkmen gas to the gas-starved hard currency markets of Pakistan and India, says UNDP.

Present estimates indicate that Daulatabad, which lies just 100-km north of the Afghanistan border, holds over 25-tcf. This field is located at the shortestdistance for supply of gas to Pakistan and north western India.

UNDP adds that Daulatabad - which was connected to the Russian pipeline network and producing till 1996 - could produce 2bn cf/d for over 35 years. Export of Daulatabad gas to Russia was discontinued in 1996 and the field earmarked for export to Pakistan and possibly to India, adds the report.

When writing the report in 2003, the UNDP stressed that export of Turkmen gas to India is overshadowed by security and stability concerns in Afghanistan concerns which are valid even today despite the installation of a pro-US government led by Hamid Karzai.