Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India officially inaugurated the $10 billion USD TAPI gas pipeline project on Sunday – a move that is aimed at promoting trade and economic ties in the region.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani along with Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Vice President Muhammad Hamid Ansari attended the ground breaking ceremony in Mary in the southeastern part of the central Asian country, close to the giant Galkynysh gas field which will provide gas for the 1,814-kilometre link.
Some 200 kilometers will pass through the territory of Turkmenistan, 735 kilometers through Afghanistan, 800 kilometers through Pakistan up to Fazilka settlement on the border with India.
Speaking at the ceremony, Turkmen president said: "By December 2019, the pipeline will be completed. It will have a capacity of 33 billion cubic metres."
The trans-regional energy project, which will carry gas from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India is being hailed as a major initiative for bringing peace and enhancing connectivity in the region.
Reports indicate however, at an earlier completion date of 2018.
TAPI's construction is led by state gas firm Turkmengas but none of the global energy majors have so far committed to the project that will cost as much as a third of Turkmenistan's total 2016 budget.
The only company known to be in talks on TAPI currently is Dubai-based Dragon Oil which produces oil off Turkmenistan's Caspian coast.
The Turkmen government also said on Sunday it had signed a "framework agreement" with a consortium of Japanese and Turkish companies to implement the third stage of expansion at Galkynysh that will boost the field's output.
In his address on Saturday, Nawaz emphatically stated that Pakistan attaches great importance to the TAPI project. "With the completion of this project, Pakistan will get 1325 MMCFD supply of natural gas which will help overcome the energy deficit," he said.
On Saturday, Ghani thanked Turkmenistan for its support and cooperation with Afghanistan and said: "Turkmenistan is and continues to be a good and benevolent neighboring country of Afghanistan."
He said Afghanistan is ready to ensure Turkmenistan's gas transit through Afghanistan. "Besides transiting Turkmenistan's gas to Pakistan and India, we hope to serve as a transit state for China as well", he added.
Turkmen president, Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov meanwhile said his country supports any efforts to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan, and ensured Ghani of Turkmenistan's enduring cooperation with Afghanistan.