NEW DELHI, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Natural gas needs from India are driving the momentum behind a multilateral natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, a U.S. diplomat said.
The government of Turkmenistan signed agreements in May to sell natural gas to its Asian partners through the 1,043-mile Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake, on a tour of Central Asia, said the project was an important regional energy bridge.
"There is now a real market in India and they can afford to pay for the gas," he was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying. "Turkmenistan has sufficient gas to fuel this pipeline."
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said the planned natural gas pipeline would ensure the safe delivery of more than 1 trillion cubic feet of Turkmen natural gas to downstream consumers.
The pipeline has financial backing from the Asian Development Bank. Prospects are complicated, however, by security concerns in war-torn Afghanistan.
Blake acknowledged were there "a lot of risks to participating in such a pipeline."
TAPI is seen as an alternative to a similar network planned by Iran.