Zardari to ink USD 7.6 bn TAPI gas pipeline pact

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not be at the signing of the "inter-governmental agreement" as he will be on a three-day visit to Belgium to participate in an India-EU summit.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora will lead the Indian delegation to Ashgabat.

The 1640-km TAPI pipeline will pass through volatile Afghan territory to link with Pakistan's national gas network near Multan. It will terminate at Fazilka in India.

The four countries will ink two agreements that will cover operational aspects and give political backing for the proposed pipeline.

The TAPI project, conceived in 1995, was initially designed to provide gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan.

India was later invited to join the project in 2008.

Zardari will hold bilateral meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and discuss the strengthening of ties in all spheres.

Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar will ink an agreement on the "Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement" at Ashgabat on December 10. The pact has already been approved by Pakistan's cabinet.

Under the project, Pakistan will get 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year. It has indicated that in case India backs out of the project at any stage, it will be willing to purchase additional gas.

Turkmenistan has the world's fourth largest proven reserves of gas and is already providing gas to Russia and China.

Following the inking of the pacts, international bids will be sought from energy companies to launch the project that is likely to be completed by 2014.

Ashgabat is likely to include the Southern Yoloten-Osman and Dovletabad gas fields in the project to ensure regular supply.

Pakistan is expected to offer assistance to develop these gas fields.

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