Afghan conflict clouds TAPI prospects

May 22, 2012 at 8:20 AM

NEW DELHI, May 22 (UPI) -- Afghan security concerns haunt a planned natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan despite growing international support, a security analyst said.

The Indian government authorized Gas Authority of India Ltd. to sign a gas sale and purchase agreement with Turkmenistan last week. Indian Oil Minister S. Jaipal Reddy is now leading a delegation to Turkmenistan to sign a deal for the planned Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.

Washington favors TAPI over a rival pipeline envisioned by the Iranians and the project has the backing of the Asian Development Bank. Bharat Karnad, a security analyst at the Center for Policy Research in India, however, said conflict in Afghanistan remains a concern.

"There are security concerns in Afghanistan and I don't see who is going to ensure uninterrupted flow of gas through the pipeline," he told Bloomberg News. "The U.S. supports this project but they're in the process of pulling out of Afghanistan."

New Delhi's movement on TAPI follows a visit to India by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said she won assurances from the Indian government that it would lower the amount of crude oil it purchases from Iran.

First gas is expected to flow through TAPI within the next six years.

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