India seeks Pakistan nudge on vexed TAPI gas pipeline deal

New Delhi: The vexed issue of transit fee for Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) gas pipeline is expected to dominate bilateral discussions between Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy and his Pakistani counterpart Dr Asim Hussain here, even as Indian Government is hoping to wrap up agreement on the project within a month.

Petroleum Ministry sources told The Pioneer newspaper that the two Ministers are scheduled to discuss the matter. The vexed issue has been pending quite some time and holding back the ambitious project, as both nations have failed to agree on fee, which Islamabad would charge New Delhi for transmitting gas through proposed pipeline, which will come to India from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan & Pakistan.

India wants to settle transit fee issue before it moves towards signing Gas Sale & Purchase Agreement (GSPA), which would kick start TAPI project. During talks, both sides are also likely to base their discussions on various available international permutations on length of transit pipeline and volume of gas which is to be transmitted to India through Pakistan under the project.

India is optimistic about resolving transit fee issue with Pakistan, and a Petroleum Ministry source said though New Delhi is yet to sign GSPA for TAPI project, it is expected to be “finalized within a month.” A team of senior Ministry officials will visit Turkmenistan in February to finalize agreement as only some minor technicalities are left to be wrapped up.

The $7.6 billion TAPI project involves building 1,735-km pipeline with total gas capacity of 90 million standard cubic meters per day. Pipeline will run from Turkmenistan’s Yolotan- Osman gas field to Herat & Kandahar in Afghanistan, via Multan in Pakistan, and finally end at Fazilka (Punjab) in India. On completion of project, India is expected to receive 38 mmscmd of gas through pipeline. Project was initially planned to be completed by end of 2014, but deadline now revised to mid-2016.

Apart from transit fee issue between India & Pakistan, gas price issue among all four nations has been holding back project and this primarily has been reason behind signing of GSPA among them, sources said. While GSPA was scheduled to be signed by July 31, 2011, it was further delayed due to these differences. However with positive signs emerging through official channels, chances are that all outstanding issues will be resolved, thus brightening prospects of kick-starting project.

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