India and Turkmenistan on Tuesday held discussions on energy cooperation and signed several agreements to further cooperation in various fields and strengthen bilateral ties.
In meetings with Turkmenistan president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who is in India on his maiden visit, senior leaders touched upon the progress of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline under construction from Turkmenistan's gas-rich eastern region to export terminals in the west.
India has shown interest in the possibility of Turkmenistan exporting some of the gas to northern Iran which could then be swapped with gas from Iran's southern seaboard. The gas from Iran could be pumped through an under-sea pipeline, obviating the need for a surface Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.
Under the SAGE (South Asia Gas Enterprise Pvt Ltd) project, a Middle-East natural gas gathering system connecting gas sources to the coast of the Arabian peninsula is being envisaged. From the Middle-East the SAGE family of pipelines is planned to follow a route surveyed 15 years back and declared unviable at the time as techniques of deepwater pipe-laying and manufacturing had not matured then.
According to an official, technology has now made it possible. Under an MoU which SAGE has finalised a deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company for developing gas exports through the route, the pipe line would bypass the territory of Pakistan. The Gas Authority of India Limited has also entered into a ''principles of cooperation arrangement'' for the sea route, however the pipeline would have to pass Pakistan's continental shelf.
During a full day of official engagements, Berdimuhamedov met prime minister Manmohan Singh, vice president Hamid Ansari, petroleum minister Murli Deora and external affairs minister SM Krishna. President Pratibha Patil hosted a banquet and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition (Lok Sabha) called on him.