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Editorial: Trans-Afghanistan pipeline, a ray of hope

Afghans are sanguine about prospects for the trans-Afghanistan pipeline, in spite of the economic tantrum and paltry investments in mega projects. Implementing an ambitious natural gas pipeline touted as ‘Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India’ or TAPI project will have a two-sided corollary; generating jobs for Afghans, and strengthening amity amongst the three South Asian countries.

TAPI is economically viable for Afghanistan as it will receive about $400 million per year in transit fees and have 16 percent of the gas. The two perpetual rivals – India and Pakistan – would each purchase 42 percent of the gas. The landmark project – that carries 33 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan through three countries – will also provide an incentive for Pakistan to honestly cooperate with Afghanistan and India in stabilizing Afghanistan.

Amidst the increasingly acrimonious relations of Afghanistan and India with Pakistan, this milestone trans-Afghanistan pipeline might orchestrate a turning point for amending long-standing animosity and turn political confrontations into economic-oriented and expedient foreign policies – a step which will be in the interests of all involved nations.

Political disputes have put Pakistan in a bind that could be circumvented via talks with Kabul and New Delhi to make a politics of negotiation in order to mend the current quarrel for the sake of regional development. Pakistan still has been lingering to its covert and overt efforts to fuel war in Afghanistan by supporting terrorist groups. But the intention is to encourage Pakistan to shed its clandestine operations and come under one umbrella with Afghanistan and India to collectively work together for a better tomorrows. Surely, TAPI would run through some of the contested areas in Afghanistan.

Once political solutions transpire between TAPI member countries, Pakistan could easily resolve the predicament; as a matter of fact there would be no war once Pakistan calls on its delinquents to shun fighting. This also must not distract us from another reality that biggest security concern is actually in Pakistan. Most of the pipeline’s path there traverses the province of Baluchistan, the site of persistent revolts by Baluch nationalists who regard the distribution of gains from national resources, including natural gas, as one of their central grievances. Problem is in both sides; let’s work towards resolving them.

Afghanistan’s interior ministry has already intensified efforts to eliminate any sorts of obstacles in the path of TAPI implementation by devising pragmatic ways of beefing up security for the project. With enthusiasm, we welcome it. All the stakeholders would benefit from this milestone project, as TAPI not only ensures pipeline connectivity but also diplomacy between Turkmenistan and three South Asian countries. It is a not a mere project, it is a big concept that incorporates the future of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

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