Energy war is something we have heard through out the last century and it will be naive to say that this theme will be replaced in this century as well. First it was the great power penetration into Middle East which is still unfolding, while the collapse of USSR opened a new arena in Central Asia. Whether you call it the “Great Game for Central Asian Reserves” or simply the “ Doctrine of Necessity”, every one wants a piece of it.
Recently, we had a sight of relief in Pakistan after a joint agreement was signed between the representatives of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for the commonly known as the TAPI project. The estimated 7.6billion $ project will carry gas from the rich reserves in Turkmenistan to the 3 mentioned countries for their future requirement. The project was on hold for nearly 15 years owing to the strategic situation in the participant countries. Now that the formalities are over and we have all the stake holders on board, its all about the prevailing situation in these countries which will determine its transformation from paper to a reality. It is estimated that in ideal circumstances, the project should get rolling somewhere in 2015, bringing an estimated 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (bcfd) from Turkmenistan.
Taking an overview of the situation, it is still very immature to say how practical this project is in term of its completion. The main hindrance will remain the security of the transit route from where this pipeline will pass. Afghanistan remains fragile as it was back in the era of 1990’s and this means that the uninterrupted passage of the energy will depend on the will of the stake holders involved in Afghanistan. On the other hand in Pakistan the situation is less than ideal when it comes to security and for this reason participant countries, especially India can show reluctance in continuation of this project.
There is another factor which is hard to ignore when it comes to India and Pakistan. Taking advantage of other’s adversity is somehow a tradition between these arch rivals and this time around the case cannot be taken as an exception. In past IPI remains the best example where Pakistan was thrown to the wall by India after a long commitment. Undoubtedly this delay has cost Pakistan dearly and the prevailing energy crisis can be blamed on this delay to a large extent. Although ADB has its backing for this project, a situation like IPI cannot be ruled out. In Afghanistan the need is on the rise but it is right now more of a plant which has to pass many stages before it transforms into a full fledged tree. Turkmenistan is a different case which is the supplier and it has every thing to gain when the gas start flowing from this project. In my view it is Pakistan which is most dependent on the outcome of this proposed project. The short fall has destroyed the industrial output in the past few years and the situation is getting worse every passing day. For others it’s the future need but for Pakistan it’s the matter of survival.
Indian needs are growing dramatically in view of its economical boom but New Delhi is working on a multi faced approach when it comes to future energy needs. The biggest edge Indians have is their booming nuclear sector which seems to be their primary concern in order to support their growing demand. Thanks to the blessings from America, France and Russia lately, India is on its way of becoming the biggest nuclear market in the coming years and to say it honestly, they are moving in the right direction of self sufficiency. This means that even if this project goes on hold or even back to the dust bin, its Pakistan which will suffer the most out of it, making the factor of “exploitation” from its neighbor in the limelight.
To conclude, this project can also transform the regional rivalry into a dependent relationship as foreseen by the Idealist/ liberalist school of thought. Their view is more directed toward interdependence as a way forward in order to avoid future confrontation. In terms of precautionary measures, its important that Pakistan must work on the pending projects instead of seeing this project as a “mean to the end”. The project has its glitter but the other side of this project is simply “darkness” as we are witnessing currently in the shape of loadshedding.