On 11th June this year President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari has sent the official letter to the Turkmenistan President Gorbangolu Berdimohamed and told about his interests in TAPI project. Zardari told at press conference that “Pakistan considers building of TAPI pipeline one of the most priority of country which means the beginning of new era for international and regional co-operation.”
According to American experts, TAPI will help to change the economic and social situation not only in the involved country. People’s Republic of China, which have great geostrategic interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan also ready to give a great credit to participating countries for the building of pipeline.
Russia also supports the building of pipeline in frame of CASA-1000 project – said minister of foreign affairs Sergey Lavrov during the meeting in Islamabad. He also marked, Russian can participate in this project and help to build pipeline and in modernization of thermal power stations of Muzafargarh and Tarbela. Possibly, the main purpose of these projects transfer of power stations into gas. However, Pakistan intends to increase by 2040 capacity of power stations with 20 to 130 watt. That’s why Pakistan needs much more natural gas power and Turkmen gas may become the main source for Pakistan’s energy need.
However even during this triumphal moment it is necessary to note that Pakistan’s position in this problem very constructive. Despite value of a gas pipeline for development of the Pakistan economy, Pakistan does not undertake all necessary measures to solve the conflict in Baludjistan and Afghanistan. Of course, all these conflicts forces experts to think about the unreal sides of pipeline project.
Alexander Petersen, wrote in his article in “Foreign Policy” – “There is no doubt that, “danger” and “conflict” will become the main problem during building the pipeline”. He remarked, “Pipeline must not be the tool of “politic game”.
The other side of the problem is “Taliban issue”, the main military bases and camps of Taliban’s settle down in Pakistan.
Leader of Taliban’s army since 2009 was the former head of “Al-Qaida’s intelligence service” Hafiz Abdul Madjid. In 2011 he has changed his headquarters place to Karachi. It is a city far from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. According to experts opinion, shura’s (majlis) moving from frontier Quetta to Karachi, as a response to the American and Afghani intelligence services efforts.
Recruitment and preparation of insurgents of terrorists are mostly situated in Pakistan. It means that without Pakistani territories “Taliban” would be defeated 4-5 years ago. Also, it is well-known fact that, Pakistan government supported “Taliban” militants in 1990-1998. Today, some “Taliban” organizations are under the influence of Pakistani intelligence service of ISI.
After all this facts, we could say that destiny of TAPI and it’s building depends on current and future position of Pakistan. Security can provide only destroying of all Talibani organizations and bases in the territory of Pakistan and arrest Taliban leaders. It is in national interests of Pakistan because the terror attacks became recurring issue in the country from Islamabad to Peshavar.
After 2001, Pakistan joined to anti-Taliban alliance which made wars in Afghanistan. But Taliban in Pakistan still save influence on the foreign policy and economical life of country. It seems again, that Pakistani position in not constructive. Pakistan declares about it is interests in energy policy and gas pipeline which passes just through Quetta and the basic areas of an arrangement of Taliban bases in Beluchistan. It means that Pakistani government will use the gas pipeline for the economic and political pressure upon India.
It is necessary to divide fears of experts concerning safety of a gas pipeline. In Afghani territory safety can more or less be established. Afghan government troops and intelligence service conduct the strong operations against Taliban militants. Finally, Taliban militant leader, Movlavi Mohammed acknowledged that, terrorist organization does not have the safety base in Afghanistan.
That’s why it is necessary to attend a position of Pakistan not only for the participants of TAPI project, but also for the member countries of SCO. Without serious Pakistani efforts, this project could not be realized.
The most interested actor, in the TAPI project is the USA. Naturally, it is a question of geopolitical advantages:
1. Firstly against Iran. On the western direction, Iran has already been restrained by Turkey with the Trans Anatolian pipeline. On the east it will become “new” Afghanistan, which is to play a key role in the project. The main purpose, not to give a chance to Tehran to sell it is gas not only to the west, but also to the east. For example, Iran has it is own gas pipeline project IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India). Also Tehran is officially planning to transfer natural gas to Tadjikistan-Kyrgizistan and to China.
2. TAPI means new partnership and friendship between Iran and Afghanistan. In 2005, Iran declared about his interest in new Aryan union. But after occurrence of Turkmen gas in region will give a boomerang effect: will strengthen the energy security of Kabul. In this situation, Kabul can block Iran’s access to Central Asian energy markets, firstly to Tadjikistan, which would become an ally of “Aryan friendship” with Iran.
3. With promoting TAPI, the USA have forgotten the dreams of EU about “Nabucco” project (specially Trans Caspian), that hope to use Turkmen gas. As a result, the way to the Central Asia will be closed for EU, too.
4. Supporting of India: The USA supports India’s developing economy against China’s rising power. The main problem between countries is Turkmen gas. But China already has gas contract with Turkmenistan. (30 billion cubic m. per a year).
Actually, it is difficult to imagine economic conflict between China and India around Turkmenistan problem. China and India are allies to different Turkmen gas fields. Deliveries to China are carried out from Southern Iolotanja . Resource base TAPI – is Galkynysh gas field. Because it is not necessary to exaggerate economic possibilities of India, it is still appreciable lagging behind in development from China. Turkmen gas is important only temporarily because Pekin’s official priority is to import Iranian gas. India also, planning to import Iranian gas.
5. TAPI – is guarantee of current pro American regime of Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari. In other words, India and Pakistan simply are put in rigid frameworks: struggle to reach any gas reserves, to build TAPI, fight against Taliban and work for stabilization in region. Otherwise, there will be no gas and in addition there may new wars in the near future.
As a conclusion, TAPI is more than an energy project. It is for the geopolitical advantage and interest of the USA. The USA’s military power and NATO troops is an only guarantee for the future of TAPI. In case of a withdrawal of the American troops and the NATO from Afghanistan as it was promised by Barack Obama, prospects for TAPI will be threatened.
The USA uses the TAPİ in solving these problems: 1) Blockade of Iran from the eastern side 2) USA acquires geopolitical advantage, Turkmenistan gets way to the South Asia, Afghanistan plays the key role in gas transfer 3) Regarding the military conflict between India and Pakistan, to control the natural resources in the region 4) Prevent the diplomatic negotiations of Eurasian Union.
Original publication : http://tasam.org/en/Icerik/4879/tapi_is_not_the_savior
Intern of Turkey-Asian Center for Strategic Studies