India Intelligence Report

   India wants TAPI


With a dead-on-arrival Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, India signaled strong interest in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project that will transport natural gas for a severely energy deficient and rapidly expanding India.

India was working on three major natural gas proposals to feed its growing hunger for energy. The IPI, TAPI, and Myanmar-Bangladesh-India (MBI) are three potentially viable but politically and security-hassled projects.

The IPI would require the pipeline to travel from Iran through insurgency ridden Baloachistan Province of Pakistan before entering India. The major issue here is the safety of the pipeline, reliability of Pakistan as a transiting authority, and reliability of Iran as an energy supplier. Since all there are suspect, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signaled the financial impracticality of the deal while visiting the United States. While some analysts discounted the statement as a pander to the US, his statement followed up with sacking Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to prove his point. Subsequent waffling by Iran on other contracts, denial of access to port facilities, and India’s continued opposition to its suspicious nuclear program  essentially suffocated the deal. Although, Iran and Pakistan seem gung-ho about the deal and nobody knows how an economically bankrupt Pakistan and an internationally isolated Iran can pull it off.

The MBI project requires the pipeline to come from Myanmar through increasingly acrimonious and obdurate Bangladesh into India to avoid insurgency ridden North Eastern corridor and expensive mountain routes and pumping stations. India has rights to two blocks off the Arakan coast  but lacks a good transport mechanism. Transportation through Liquefied Natural Gas by ship is also being explored  but there is bound to be a loss in such conversion. Besides Myanmar has already re-sold some lucrative blocks meant for India to China  raising doubts about that country’s ethics and reliability as an energy vendor.

The TAPI project has been in the backburner because of the risk of transporting gas through terrorist ridden Afghanistan and Pakistan North West-Frontier Province. Since this is at a preliminary stage, it remains to be seen how Afghanistan and Pakistan will contribute to guarantee the safety of the pipeline. The United States is trying to push India to accept this more than the other two projects and some analysts say that is because of the US’s oil interests and investments in that region.