Ashgabat: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived here today on a three-day visit to resource-rich Turkmenistan during which she will co-chair a meeting to discuss key bilateral and regional issues, including the USD 10 billion TAPI gas pipeline project.
Swaraj will co-chair the fifth India-Turkmenistan Inter- Governmental Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation with her Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov tomorrow.
She was received at the airport by Turkmenistan's deputy foreign Minister Berdy Matiyev, Indian Ambassador T V Nagendra Prasad and others.
She will also call on Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. This is her first visit to Turkmenistan after assuming charge last year.
Key bilateral and regional issues, including trade and the ambitious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, are expected to be discussed during the joint commission meeting.
The gas project is a 1,680 km-pipeline with design capacity to supply 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per annum from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
TAPI will carry gas from Turkmenistan's Galkynysh field that holds gas reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet. From the field, the pipeline will run to Herat and Kandahar province of Afghanistan, before entering Pakistan's Multan via Quetta. It will end at Fazilka (Punjab) in India.
The pipeline will have a capacity to carry 90 million standard cubic metres a day (mmscmd) gas for a 30-year period and is expected to be operational by 2018. India and Pakistan would get 38 mmscmd each, while the remaining 14 mmscmd will be supplied to Afghanistan.
TAPI project has remained on the drawing board since the four nations have not been able to get an international firm to head a consortium, which will lay and operate the pipeline.
At the 20th Steering Committee meeting of TAPI project in Pakistan in February, India had pressed Turkmenistan to relax its domestic law to help get an international firm for building the project.
At the meeting, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan reiterated “India's commitment to source natural gas from Turkmenistan through TAPI natural gas pipeline project and made a renewed pitch for the expeditious appointment of a mutually acceptable Consortium Leader, which is a vital step in the implementation of the project, in a time bound manner.”
In the last joint commission meeting in January 2013, India and Turkmenistan had agreed to take necessary steps for early realisation of the TAPI project and increase trade.
Turkmenistan possesses the world's fourth-largest reserves of natural gas and substantial oil resources. The Galkynysh gas field has the second-largest volume of gas in the world, after the South Pars field in the Persian Gulf.
Bilateral trade between the two countries stood at about USD 88 million in 2013-2014.