Deal on gas pipeline in final stages
Islamabad, August 22, 2006 (Dawn) - Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan envisage development of complete energy corridor under multi- billion dollar TAP project including two parallel gas and crude oil pipelines, railway track, road and optic fibre system, but India is interested in a gas pipeline alone.
Informed sources told Dawn that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was currently in the final stages of revising framework agreement and inter-state agreements to include India in the project before these are discussed and cleared by the technical groups and the steering committee for ratification.
New Delhi is seeking to incorporate in the agreement special clauses that could guarantee that gas volumes contracted to India would in no circumstances be disturbed at any stage if Pakistan required higher quantities than original contracts for Gwadar port, the sources said. This would, however, not restrict Pakistan to have maximum supplies subject to pipeline capacity.
The revisions in the framework agreement would allow the ADB to include extension of the TAP gas pipeline to India in the pre- feasibility study including routes, pipeline capacity, design and security aspects. The agreement would also define in clear terms the right of the participating states to inject or draw gas from the pipeline in case of additional gas quantities.
Meanwhile, an official spokesman said the "assessment of the consultant will not be binding". He said Pakistan is pursuing a two-pronged strategy on bilateral as well as trilateral basis. In order to facilitate discussion on gas pricing parameters, the three countries considered it appropriate to engage a mutually acceptable consultant to provide inputs with regard to such parameters
He said the project was a commercial deal and high-level discussions between Pakistan and Iran were meant to accelerate the progress. He said the discussions on financial, commercial, technical and legal aspects were being held in a parallel rather than a sequential manner.
The spokesman claimed that the gas price quoted in a news report was misleading as discussions at this stage were on the gas pricing mechanism rather than absolute numbers.
According to an update of the petroleum ministry $7 billion TAP pipeline project is currently faced with seven major bottlenecks. These include non-confirmation of uncommitted gas volume by Turkmenistan regarding Daulatabad gas field, uncertainties or lack of clarity with regard to price of the gas to be demanded by Turkmenistan and security situation in Afghanistan.