March 21--ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Not only the U.S and India may be the main participants of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, but also China, political analyst and expert Yuri Sigov from Washington said.
"China, rather than the U.S can be the main conductor of the TAPI project," he told Trend via e-mail on Tuesday. "India's presence in the Central Asian region and the Caspian Sea area is extremely weak."
He recalled that the TAPI gas pipeline is a very expensive project. Who would invest the money and how is the gas market ready to 'welcome' such a pipeline as TAPI?
He added that many potential foreign investors were held back by Turkmenistan's information secrecy.
"However, Turkmenistan wants to promote the project in the international arena," he said. "There is the investors' pragmatic approach. They will risk not only billions of dollars, but the political consequences in the case of TAPI. As for the most 'rich' participants of the project, the U.S energy companies, the American leadership hinted it would be more profitable for them to participate in such an operation."
He said the White House cannot officially force the management of Chevron or Exxon-Mobil to invest in the Turkmen-Indian gas pipeline.
He said that it should be stressed that Washington may advise its companies to participate in TAPI, but cannot give any guarantees from the Turkmen government which is extremely wary about any possible expansion of a U.S. business presence in the country.
"Moreover, no one will give any guarantees to the Americans regarding security of laying the pipeline in Afghanistan," he said.
The expert said the U.S companies have already determined their interest in participating in the Trans-Asian gas pipeline. They want to get permission from Ashgabat to develop the Turkmen gas shelf of the Caspian Sea.
He added that China and several Arab countries have good positions in the Turkmen energy sector.
Turkmenistan is still an attractive, but very specific energy market for the U.S.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is not ready to allow many U.S companies to join.
"The Indian and Pakistani business share in the project is beneficial for Turkmenistan," he said. "As opposed to Americans and representatives of Western European companies, which can recall Ashgabat over human rights, democracy, freedom of the press and political parties through the political leadership, India and Pakistan will concern about only the business aspects of the planned project."
According to the expert, it is important for Turkmenistan at this stage to try to enlist the financial support of these two countries, as well non-gas exporters from the Persian Gulf (Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, Bahrain). This project could be a good investment of available free funds.
As for Russia, it will not participate in TAPI. It will do its utmost to prevent the project's implementation.
"After all Turkmen gas which has been recently supplied by Ashgabat exclusively to the foreign markets, is diverted to other routes," he said. "There is nothing for the Russian side. TAPI is also disadvantageous for Qatar and the UAE, working with the dimensionless Indian gas market. They do not even want to get a competitor from Turkmenistan."
"One must take into account that China intends to significantly invest and work in Afghanistan, and accordingly if this country at least stabilises its economic position, it will be easier for the Chinese companies to operate in Afghanistan," the expert said.
He added that at present, Beijing offers Ashgabat to facility to sign the new agreements on gas exports. It is supplied via the 1830 kilometre pipeline from Turkmenistan to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. This year the capacity of the pipeline will reach 30 billion cubic meters of gas. Moreover, the Chinese expressed the desire to invest in another gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan-China, or to lay a similar pipeline through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in case of any problems with Afghanistan.
"China would like to bring the gas volume obtained from Turkmenistan up to 65 billion cubic meters by 2015," he said. "Each Central Asian country which would be involved in such ideas will be closely connected to the Chinese energy market. This will give Beijing another important lever of influence on them economically and politically."
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Tags: TAPI, Yuri Sigov