A day after the prime ministers of India and Pakistan kept distance from each other at the United Nations Peacekeeping Summit in New York, President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday pinned hopes on the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline and suggested to revive the long-pending Iran-Pak-India (IPI) pipeline proposal for energy cooperation and peace in the subcontinent.
In his inaugural address at an international conference on çooperation, development, peace and security in south and central Asia’ here, Mukherjee said, “India’s future dependence on imported energy, mainly oil and gas, is a stark reality that will also require diversifying sources of supply. The Central Asian nations have considerable surplus and the TAPI pipeline project is worth pursuing both for sourcing energy supplies and its collateral geo-strategic benefits. The IPI gas pipeline can also be revived since Iran has already built the section in its territory. Such energy projects could also prove to be game-changers for geo-strategic stability.”
‘Make use of opportunities’
He also laid emphasis on the need to make full use of the opportunities offered by the recent Iran nuclear deal, which opened the possibility of establishing connectivity with the region through the development of the Chabahar Port in Iran. This, he said, also opened up the possibility of implementing the International North South Corridor for a competitive and quick route to Eurasia for India.
The two-day conference, being organised by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), was seen by the President as part of deliberations that would add to the corpus of intellectual output in helping India with its foreign policy.
He observed that the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to central Asian countries in July had provided “the much-needed impetus to India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy launched in 2012 to enrich contacts with the region. “We share two main interests with countries in the region – security and counter-terrorism on the one hand, and mutually beneficial economic engagement, including that in the use of energy and natural resources, on the other,” he added.
‘SCO to be of help’
He also expressed the hope that India’s recent entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) would also help in deepening engagement with the region and boost ongoing efforts at examining the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union to further increasing India’s integration with the region. Punjab and Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki and Rajya Sabha member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa were also present on the occasion.
On Thursday, former PM Manmohan Singh is scheduled to address the conference that deliberates on key issues concerning south Asian and central Asian countries.