India today said it was "strongly committed" to the USD 10 billion trans-national TAPI pipeline project that will help ease energy shortages in South Asia, but voiced concerns over the security and predictability of supply of gas and sought contractual assurances.
Speaking at the 25th Session of Steering Committee on Implementation of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project here, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said TAPI's uninterrupted gas flow will be extremely important for India's energy security.
"Today, given the energy requirements in India, there are several gas pipeline proposals before us. We are, however, strongly committed to TAPI Pipeline project," he said.
He recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Turkmenistan in July 2015 termed the TAPI Project as the "most significant initiative in our relationship".
"The TAPI project is more than the sum of four nations' interests. It creates a benchmark for regional cooperation in a region that could certainly do with more cooperation," said Akbar, who is leading a delegation comprising representatives from Ministries of Petroleum, External Affairs and GAIL, which represents India in the TAPI Pipeline Company Ltd (TPCL).
The delegation also includes for the first time senior official level representation from Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), which is India's largest public sector refiner and marketing company. It is also one of the largest offtaker of gas, including from the proposed TAPI pipeline.
Noting that India is world's third largest energy consumer and fourth largest importer of Liquefied natural gas, Akbar said India's energy requirement is increasing steadily.
"Our Prime Minister has been emphasising the four pillars of his energy vision - Energy Access, Energy Efficiency, Energy Sustainability and Energy Security. We see the reflection of all these four pillars of prime minister's vision in the TAPI Pipeline," he said, adding that once completed, TAPI has the potential to link not only our four partner countries but also Central Asia with the Indian subcontinent.
Akbar also highlighted some of the issues that need urgent attention such as finalising and signing of bilateral Host Government Agreements (HGA) by TPCL with Afghanistan and Pakistan, early identification of Financial Adviser, details of cost and a full picture of financing of the project et al.
"We also have some concerns regarding the security and predictability of supply of gas and would need contractual assurances. GAIL has been engaged in discussions with companies of the other three countries and with TPCL. The Steering Committee is seized of the matter, but, there has been no forward movement in this regard," he said.
India has concerns relating to the safety of the pipeline and safe transit of gas through restive areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Akbar said India strongly feels that these key issues need to be addressed to make this a win-win project.
"On our part, we are working with pace and commitment to the infrastructure required in our country. As the largest offtaker of gas from the pipeline, we have already started developing required gas pipeline infrastructure in India and developing plans for marketing and utilisation of TAPI gas," he added.
He also said that India is ready to host the next Steering Committee meeting in India around September 2018.
"It is our belief that the TAPI Gas Pipeline will transform the politics of this region and help us to build trust and confidence among ourselves as neighbours and partners in progress," he added in his concluding remarks.
Turkmenistan, which sits on the world's fourth-largest gas reserves, started building its section of the pipeline in December 2015. The TAPI pipeline will have a capacity to carry 90 million standard cubic metres a day (mmscmd) gas for 30 years and is planned to become operational this year.
The project will bring clean fuel to the growing economies of India and Pakistan. It will provide energy-hungry India gas to run its power plants.
Under the pipeline project, Pakistan and India will be provided 1.325 bcfd gas each and Afghanistan will be getting a share of 0.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) gas.