Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Beginning the Construction of Afghan Section of TAPI: Challenges and Opportunities

This is one of the most important economic projects ever started in Afghanistan. Many high ranking officials including the Presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, Pakistani Prime Minister and India’s Minister of State for External Affairs gathered in Herat today, February 24, for a ceremony to mark the launch of work in Afghanistan on the TAPI pipeline.
The Aim of TAPI
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline project of the Asian Development Bank, aims to export up to 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, approximately 1,800-kilometer long, from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India and The cost of TAPI project is $10 millions. TAPI will be operated by a special purpose consortium company (SPCC) and led by a commercial entry (consortium lead Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Opportunities of TAPI
TAPI presents an opportunity for regional cooperation on an unprecedented scale. It can link the economics of the four countries. This project will enhance energy trading between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. This project can establish a long term public-private partnership between these countries by establishing a natural-gas pipeline consortium. Further, there is a concern that the lack of energy supplies to the major energy importing countries in the region will constrain the social and economic development of other countries and there is a growing consensus in favor of a multilateral cooperative approach to energy security in the region. Therefore, TAPI can line up and unified the four countries around one strategic economic and political goal and develop a strategy for regional cooperation in Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) countries. Such a mechanism ensures a strategic long term partnership among these countries that not only can change the long arch-rivalries among them to a strategic partnership that can benefit the entire region and world through a more secure central Asia.
The main obstacle of TAPI is the need to ensure energy security because its route will pass through sensitive areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The main issue facing TAPI is security, which is needed for consortium of the pipeline and ensuring a viable supply of gas through it upon completion. As only 100 km of the 1, 680 km will pass through Turkmenistan and Indian territory, it faces tough security problems and it is not clear the regional powers will put aside their political and security problems aside in practice and push for a win- win geo-economics approach or not? 
Afghanistan and Pakistan have had disputes over their territorial borders; however, Afghanistan’s borders with Iran and Central Asia are relatively peaceful.  But the Durand line remains as the most challenging problem between Afghanistan and Pakistan as before. Also, Pakistan’s protectionist policies have led Afghanistan to lean toward cooperation with its western neighbor, Iran.
Thus, Baluchistan is common territory that it is divided between Iran and Pakistan. The two countries also collaborated on suppressing Baluch nationalism, which both Tehran and Islamabad perceive to be a threat to regional stability and their territorial integrity.
The TAPI pipeline shall pass from mountainous areas of Afghanistan, where it is very difficult and expensive to build pipelines, to the Central Asia region where powers such as Russia, China and Iran do not have a positive attitude toward the TAPI pipeline.
Central Asia has great energy potential and is strategically important, but it is landlocked. Afghanistan plays and enjoys a geopolitics position in the region and can act as energy corridor in the Central Asia, and has the potential to change the long run adversaries among India and Pakistan and among Afghanistan and Pakistan to a strategic partnership not only befitting the region but the world. As a result, the transit of reserves is very critical for countries that have resources, especially gas, and importing of these resources are equally vital for the countries which need it direly. South Asia, China and India have been experiencing faster economic growth and energy demand than other parts of the world. Economic and social development, population growth, high dependence on oil and gas, and limited energy reserves are the main factors promoting and increase in these demands in the region. Geopolitics of energy is very important for countries that need energy resources and as well for the countries enjoy them. It is vital for the countries that transit energy through their territory, since this provides them with political and economic dividends. The regional and cross-regional powers have different attitudes toward TAPI, which has led to a Great Game unfolding between them over energy and its transit. However, launching the TAPI section of Afghanistan is not only one of the historic events in the geopolitics of energy in the country, but in the whole region and even the cross-region. It has the potential to transform the adversaries to the strategic cooperation ensuring a win-win result for all the parties opening a new chapter of peace and prosperity in the region.