By an OGJ correspondent
KARACHI, Mar. 27 -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has forwarded a draft proposal to Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan regarding India's participation in the triparty's proposed 1,300 km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan natural gas pipeline project. Subject to approval of all parties, the draft would be followed by the extension of a formal invitation to New Delhi to join the partnership.
ADB said Islamabad might approve the draft within a week in anticipation of the steering committee's Apr. 8-9 meeting at ADB's headquarters in Manila.
The idea of including India in the project was discussed last year at a steering committee meeting in Ashakabad. Participants believe New Delhi's participation would make the project more viable and would provide significant gas markets, ADB said.
The idea rematerialized at a Feb. 22 committee meeting in Islamabad, and all parties agreed that ADB should prepare a draft for consideration and forward it for developing consensus (OGJ Online, Feb. 27, 2003).
Turkmenistan's Deputy Prime Minister Yully Qurbanmuradova, Afghan Petroleum and Mines Minister Juma Mohammad Mohammadi, and Pakistan's Petroleum Minister Nauraiz Shakoor led their respective countries' delegations during that meeting.
Officials in Islamabad believe that India will capitalize on the opportunity to become a party in the $3.2 billion project, which could help India fulfill its growing gas demand. The US Energy Information Agency has estimated that India's gas consumption will reach 2.6 tcf by 2020 (OGJ, Apr. 5, 2002, p. 26).
The pipeline would carry up to 20 billion cu m/year of natural gas and likely would be constructed to Pakistan's Sui field, from which existing infrastructure could be tapped to supply major local markets (OGJ, Oct. 7, 2002, p. 21).
India currently is studying the feasibility of laying a gas pipeline from Iran to India, but the project has encountered numerous setbacks, including "political differences" between Islamabad and New Delhi.
Meanwhile, the Karazai government has appointed its new Industries Minister to attend the next steering committee meeting. The Afghan minister for industries died near Karachi in an airplane crash after attending the steering committee meeting in Islamabad.
Analysts have little hope that an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will become a reality. They also consider a deep-sea route, which would avoid passage through Pakistan, to be equally nonviable.