India is speeding up its efforts to sign an agreement for importing gas through the US-backed $10-billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.
At the same time, it is going slow on the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) project that would have moved huge quantities of gas from the south Pars field in the Persian Gulf into India. Some government officials see this as an indication that India is toeing the US line and reducing its energy dependence on the sanctions-hit Iran.
The urgency on the part of the government is palpable. The petroleum ministry recently wrote to the National Security Council (NSA) secretary Lata Reddy on April 2 that “There is an urgency for signing the gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA) under the TAPI gas pipeline project”.
A cabinet note is ready, and when it gets the nod, India will sign the GSPA for importing gas under this project, the petroleum ministry officials confirmed.
Both the IPI and TAPI projects have been under discussion since the ’90s.
“While it is difficult to say if TAPI will see the light of the day, but IPI has certainly been put on the backburner,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity. “Stepping up efforts on the TAPI project is a clear indication that New Delhi is following the US’ anti-Teheran stand.”
India and other south Asian nations have already reduced their import dependence on Iranian crude oil by over 20%.
India has slashed its import plans from 18.1 million tonnes of crude oil to 14 mtpa.
“Both IPI and TAPI were high on the agenda of UPA-I and we cannot allow outside powers to determine our economic requirements, our foreign policy priorities or our national security needs,” said former petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.
On its part, the US has welcomed India’s renewed interest in TAPI. Senior advisor in the US department of state Daniel Stein said at the 7th Asia Gas partnership summit here recently: “TAPI fits into the US government’s Eurasian energy policy meant to assist Europe and Asia in their quest for energy security.”