Regional politicians have launched construction work on the Afghan section of a natural gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Even the Taliban are now approving the project.
Regional leaders on Friday launched construction work on the Afghan section of an $8-billion (€6.5-billion) natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan and Pakistan to India.
Turkmenistan holds the world's fourth-largest gas reserves, but has been heavily dependent on exports to China after Russia cut back imports considerably.
The TAPI pipeline is expected to eventually transport 33 billion cubic meters of gas annually along a 1,800-kilometer (1,125-mile) route from the Galkynysh gas field to Fazilka in northern India near the border with Pakistan.
"South Asia is being connected with Central Asia through Afghanistan after more than a century of division," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said during the ground-breaking ceremony.
Afghanistan is launching the start of TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project in the western province of Herat
Taliban in focus
While the pipeline will allow Turkmenistan to find new consumers in Asia, it is also being seen as a central plank in ambitious regional development goals as the project is hoped to advance road, rail and communications networks.
The start of work had been delayed because of problems related to the pipeline crossing Afghanistan.
The pipeline will run for hundreds of kilometers through areas in southern Afghanistan largely controlled by Taliban insurgent fighters. But they have meanwhile signaled that they would not hinder the project.
The Taliban issued a statement Friday, pledging cooperation with TAPI which they said would be an important element in building up Afghanistan's economic infrastructure.
hg/jbh (Reuters, AFP)