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No feeling of Euphoria
An Agreement оn construction of gas- and oil pipelines running from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through the territory of Afghanistan was signed in Islamabad on May 30 by the President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov, the President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf and the Head of interim administration of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. The Agreement envisages joint efforts of three states in laying 1500-km pipeline from Turkmen's Daulatabad gasfield to Pakistan's Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea coast.

The main point for realization of this project is a financial one. According to various estimates it will cost from USD 2 to 2.5 bln. The question is who and to what extent will be ready to invest in construction of a pipeline stretching through "problematic" Afghan territory (and this is about 700 km.)? Nobody also feels too much optimistic because of current intensification of tension between Pakistan and India. On the other hand, benefits from realization of the project are evident both to suppliers and transit countries and consumers in the world market. That is why cautious evaluation of the perspectives of pipeline building voiced in particular by representatives of big business and Western official structures indicates rather to their careful and very serious approach to the issue of participation in the project. This is a colorful contrast - for better - as opposed to the mild euphoria of mid 90th that ended in a confuse balancing on the edge of a scandal.

It is believed that this time reanimation of the project will have a different and not only economical but political hidden motive. First of all it is due to fundamental changes in overall situation in the region. Today the goal of those who were first to present themselves as participants of the project - Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan - is objectively in the line with the goal of international community and their leaders - USA, Russia, China, EU. Both are interested in providing for regional stability and security. And in a course of achieving of this goal the first place goes to Afghanistan. Realization of all mentioned above goals depends in many respects on how soon and how strong will be positions of central government (Karzai or his successors) in uniting a country and reconstruction of its economy. In this respect trans-afghan pipeline fits excellently to the efforts of international community in the region (Afghanistan itself will receive around USD 300 mln annually in transit fees).

It is not by accident that in the text of Islamabad Agreement there is a separate clause which underlines importance of adopting a special international convention "and other respective international legal instruments under the UN auspices" providing for security guarantees of pipeline systems. Of course, appeal to international community, especially in present circumstances, could not appear out of nothing and one should think that leaders of Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan will use all its influence and authority to secure political and financial support for the project in the world.

As a whole participants of Islamabad meeting are united in their opinion that they have made first but very important step from dreaming to practical implementation of the project. And nobody calls it (as happened on many occasions before) a "project of century". This is also symptomatic.

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