Pakistan has shown a willingness to go on with the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project even without India as Afghanistan is willing to offer more support, the Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Musadik Malik, said during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Business Recorder reported earlier this week.
According to well-informed sources, the Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources had a meeting with the Saudi Ministers of Finance, Energy, Minerals, and Industry. During this meeting, the Minister updated the Saudi side on the latest developments surrounding the TAPI pipeline project.
The Minister emphasized that Turkmenistan is eager to move forward with the project and that Pakistan is willing to implement it as soon as possible, even without India's participation. If India decides to leave the project, Pakistan is reportedly willing to purchase India's proposed share of gas.
However, the Minister acknowledged that Afghanistan's security and political situation remains a challenge for the TAPI project. He believes that the security issue can be addressed if favorable factors are created, including increasing the stakes for the Afghans, pointing out that transit revenue from the pipeline would make up around 80 to 85 percent of Afghanistan's annual budget, making it crucial for them to ensure its security.
He informed the Saudi side that the Afghan interim leadership has informally expressed their willingness to raise a dedicated security force to protect the pipeline and suggested that if Saudi capital or some multilateral funding mechanism is brought into the project, it could be materialized, transforming the energy and security landscape of the region.
The Saudi side expressed doubts about removing the security-related challenges in Afghanistan but indicated they would closely follow the developments regarding the TAPI pipeline project and suggested that if all concerns are addressed, and the economics of the project are worked out, entities like the SDF, PIF, and Exim Bank could be brought on board, the sources explained.
Further, the Minister proposed a new project where natural gas from Turkmenistan can be brought to Gwadar via a gas pipeline from Chaman, converted into LNG, and exported.
He reasoned that if Saudi Arabia joins this project, it could open up new possibilities and make Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Saudi Arabia joint exporters of LNG, which would be welcomed by energy-starved Europe and the West, adding that further details of the proposed project will be shared with the Saudi side in due course.
Meanwhile, the sources reported that the Saudi side did not commit to the idea but agreed to study the project's economics carefully when Pakistan shares it.