Ashgabat: Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov has committed to deepen ties with India and begin construction of the USD 10 billion TAPI gas pipeline project this year, as the two countries sought to step up collaboration in the energy sector and fertiliser production.
President Berdymuhamedov committed to strengthen ties with India during a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the presidential palace here yesterday. Swaraj, who co-chaired the fifth India-Turkmenistan Inter-Governmental Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation with her Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov, termed it as a “preparatory” meeting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first visit to this country in July.
“Committed to deepening India-Turkmenistan ties. #TAPI construction to begin this year. President Berdymuhamedov to EAM @SushmaSwaraj,” a Ministry of External Affairs tweet said. During the minister's maiden visit to the Central Asian country, the two nations agreed to collaborate in the energy sector and discussed key bilateral and regional issues, including defence cooperation.
Plans are afoot to set up a urea manufacturing facility in Turkmenistan and opening a representative office by ONGC Videsh Ltd in Ashgabat.
Swaraj and Meredov agreed on joint efforts to expedite the implementation of the TAPI pipeline project. India and Turkmenistan also discussed bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sector, specifically fertilisers and petrochemicals, and agreed to expedite mutually beneficial cooperation in this field.
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas project is an over 1,800 km pipeline with design capacity to supply 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per annum from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is expected to be operational by 2018.
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, where it will reach Multan via Quetta before ending at Fazilka in Punjab in India.
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.
“This is my first visit to Turkmenistan. It has been successful. It has exceeded my expectations. India's development standards are going up and there are so many developmental opportunities,” Swaraj said.
During the meeting, the two sides reaffirmed their strong commitment to the TAPI project and recognised the need for early resolution of the outstanding issue of selection of the consortium leader to expedite implementation of the project. Swaraj said there were increasing opportunities to collaborate with resource-rich Turkmenistan in areas of energy and fertiliser sectors due to rise in requirement.
“Due to ‘Make in India', our energy needs are rising. Our needs in the agriculture sector and want for fertilisers are also rising. In both these areas, Turkmenistan can be our partner, having natural gas in abundance.
“We have talked about setting up a fertiliser plant in which fertilisers will be made here for India. This will be value addition to their gas reserves and we will get fertilisers,” Swaraj, who led an inter-ministerial delegation, said.
Swaraj, who called on the Turkmenistan president at the presidential palace here, said after the meeting, “In July, the Prime Minister is going to come here. If we are able to take certain proposals forward in the coming months, we will be able to announce them during the Prime Minister's visit”.
“This meeting also served as the preparatory meet for the Prime Minister's visit here,” she told reporters. President Berdymuhamedov told Swaraj that he is looking forward to receiving Modi later this year, officials said.
“He talked about bilateral relations. We talked about all pervasive and all important issues. We talked about defence cooperation and the fertiliser plant,” she said.
“We are looking forward to our Prime Minister's visit to Turkmenistan which has been proposed for July,” she said. Modi is also expected to visit other countries in the region around that time for which details are being worked out, sources said.
“The President also apprised us about the progress in the TAPI project and I told his excellency that this has been possible only because of his personal intervention,” she said.
During the joint commission meeting, the Indian side thanked the Turkmen side for facilitating the visit of a delegation from ONGC Videsh Ltd, for exploring opportunities. The Turkmen side welcomed the proposal of ONGC Videsh to open their representative office in Turkmenistan.