06 Jan 2017 12:14 IST

Taliban backs TAPI, but will Trump?

Geopolitics reduces pipeline projectto a pipedream

The $15-billion transnational Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project is set to enter another phase of geopolitical challenges from a new administration in the US and heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.

These developments have cast a shadow over the natural gas pipeline project despite its recently overcoming one of its biggest hurdles and securing support from the Taliban.

Backed by the US, TAPI was conceptualised in 1995. However, the project failed to take off due to geopolitical tensions among the member-countries.

Additionally, Taliban insurgents, who control vast swathes of territory in Afghanistan, threatened to disrupt the project.

In recent years, though, the project gained some traction, largely owing to the Obama administration’s Afghanistan redevelopment programme.

It also obtained funding support of $700 million from the Islamic Development Bank last November.

The Trump factor

But Donald Trump’s election as US President has raised fresh questions about the project’s prospects. Trump’s stance on TAPI will be a “deciding factor” for the project, official sources told BusinessLine. It seems that the Indian government will adopt a wait-and-watch approach, according to an official.

The official said that since the project has security concerns, the decision to resume talks on obtaining the Turkmenistan gas from Pakistan rests on the new Army chief. The Army’s official position is crucial, given the security implications.

However, during the recent ‘Heart of Asia’ conference, during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, India had asked Afghanistan to explore the option of routing the Turkmenistan gas from Afghanistan via Iran’s Chabahar Port, effectively bypassing Pakistan, said another official, who refused to be identified.

Meanwhile, Russia and China have started gaining ground in energy and infrastructure sectors at a rapid pace.


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