NEW DELHI, May 25 (UPI) -- The Turkmen president viewed talks in New Delhi on a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan as a boost to bilateral ties, officials in India said.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is on his first visit to New Delhi as head of state. Oil and gas featured large on the agenda, the news agency Turkmenistan.ru reports.
Ajay Bisaria, the joint Indian secretary in charge of Eurasian matters, said much of the talks centered on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.
The TAPI pipeline is backed by Washington as a rival to an Iranian plan to move natural gas from its giant South Pars field in the Persian Gulf to Pakistan and India. The 1,044-mile TAPI pipeline won security guarantees from Afghanistan in 2008.
Berdimuhamedov, in a decree issued Monday, called on his countrymen to move forward with the construction of the gas pipeline independently.
Russia had served as the primary importer of Turkmen gas. That relationship was strained, however, following a Turkmen pipeline explosion in April 2009 that Ashgabat blamed on Gazprom.
Bisaria noted the visit by the Turkmen president was a "goodwill visit" that would strengthen "friendly relations between the peoples of our countries."
TAPI could go into service as early as 2015.