KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and regional leaders inaugurated construction work on the Afghan section of the multibillion-dollar gas pipeline for exporting Turkmenistan’s gas to South Asia on Friday.
The 1,800-km pipeline, called Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), is to carry 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually for 30 years to Pakistan and India, which urgently need gas supplies.
“South Asia is being connected with Central Asia through Afghanistan after more than a century … Afghanistan will change into a connecting hub for South and Central Asia,” said President Ghani at the inauguration ceremony held in Turkmenistan.
Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and India’s Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar attended the ceremony, along with a large number of foreign diplomats and officials.
“TAPI will lead from a gas pipeline into an energy and communication corridor,” Abbasi said at the ceremony.
The cost of the pipeline is estimated to be $8 billion and is backed by the US and the Asian Development Bank.
TAPI has been touted by Turkmenistan — one of the world’s key producers of gas — since the 1990s when Afghanistan was locked in a civil war that led to the arrival of the Taliban. Turkmenistan also aims to sell its electricity to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan, Afghan officials said.
Much of the pipeline will run through southwestern Afghanistan, where Taliban militants are most active and fight to topple the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul and push foreign forces out of the country.
But before the launch of the project on Friday, the Taliban reiterated its willingness to protect the project, which will earn Afghanistan $450 million annually, create jobs for Afghan people and allow the public to have access to gas in their area.
“There will be no delay in this important national project,” the Taliban said in a statement emailed to reporters.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, and the Afghan population hope the pipeline will bring sustained growth and stability to their country, which has been locked in decades of conflict and relies heavily on foreign aid.
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