Pakistan and Turkmenistan on Tuesday signed the final version of the 'Host Government Agreement' for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline network in Islamabad, Radio Pakistan reported.
The agreement was signed by Additional Secretary In-charge of the Petroleum Division Mian Asad Hayauddin and Muhammetmyrat Amanov, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of TAPI Pipeline Company Ltd, Turkmenistan.
Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan reiterated Pakistan's commitment for the "early and successful implementation" of the TAPI project.
The minister hoped that the groundbreaking of the project would be held in Pakistan this year, according to Radio Pakistan.
Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov, who oversaw the signing of the agreement, informed the petroleum minister about his government's efforts to ensure the timelines of the project.
"He welcomed Pakistan's continued commitment and active interest in the TAPI gas project," the report said.
The TAPI pipeline project envisions the supply of Turkmenistan’s gas to India and Pakistan via Afghanistan.
Originating at the giant Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan, the $9.6 billion TAPI pipeline involves the four countries’ own energy companies, and would carry 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year.
Turkmenistan is building TAPI to diversify its gas exports, which have mostly gone to China. But the project has suffered lengthy delays due to difficulties obtaining financing and the security risks of building a pipeline through war-torn Afghanistan.
In December last year, the TAPI CEO had said that the construction of the pipeline would begin in the first quarter of 2019 and be completed in two-and-a-half years. Moreover, he had said, Afghanistan and Pakistan have given sovereign guarantees to ensure the pipeline’s security.
Turkmenistan FM's visit
Turkmenistan Foreign Minister Meredov was on a visit to Islamabad on March 11-12 during which he led his country's delegation at the second round of the Pakistan-Turkmenistan Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC), while Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi led the Pakistani side, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Office.
During the meeting, the two sides discussed bilateral relations and stressed the need to further "enhance bilateral economic [cooperation] through joint ventures in mutually identified areas particularly agriculture, textile, livestock and IT sectors."
They emphasised the importance of the TAPI project and agreed to ensure it's early implementation.
As per the press release, the two foreign ministers highlighted the need to take "specific measures" to ensure greater connectivity through road, rail and air linkages in order to promote trade, tourism and people-to-people contact between the two countries.
During the visit, memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed to increase cooperation between the foreign ministries of the two nations as well as their diplomatic institutions.
An MoU was also signed for the establishment of the Pak-Turkmen Joint Business Council.
According to the FO, Qureshi also briefed his Turkmen counterpart on the current security situation in South Asia and regretted the "aggressive and irresponsible attitude of India".
Meredov also paid a courtesy call on President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan during his two-day visit.