Turkmenistan, Afghanistan push project to pipe gas to India

Turkmenistan has offered India a major stake in a gas pipeline leading to India while war-torn Afghanistan, through which the pipeline passes through most, has offered to station over 7,000 troops to guard the Afghan stretch of the pipeline.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov made the offer to India's minister for petroleum and natural gas Murli Deora on the sidelines of a summit meeting at its capital Ashgabat.

Afghanistan made the pledge a day after Turkmenistan signed broad agreements on the ambitious project with Afghanistan, India and Pakistan at the summit.

India, too, is reported to have backed the project despite the risks of routing the pipeline through the dangerous Taliban territory and the high cost of the fuel at the Indian end.

The 1,680-km TAPI gas pipeline from Turkmenistan's South Yoloten-Osman field to Fazilka in India near the India-Pakistan border, will have a capacity to transport 3.2-billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (bcfd). The project is scheduled to be completed by 2013-14.

While representatives of the four nations have signed a framework agreement on the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline in Ashgabat on 11 December, Deora wanted the cabinet to approve India's role in the TAPI project.