(EnergyAsia, May 28 2012, Monday) — India, Pakistan and Afghanistan have committed to import natural gas through a planned 1,800-km pipeline to tap the reserves of Turkmenistan, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has been coordinating and facilitating talks among the various parties for a decade.

Meeting in the Turkmen city of Turkmenbashi last week, GAIL (India) Ltd and Pakistan’s Inter State Gas System Private Ltd signed to each purchase up to 38 million cubic metres a day (bcm) through the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) line.

Afghanistan, which signed a memorandum of understanding on long-term gas cooperation with Turkmenistan, is expected to soon commit to purchase up to 14 bcm/day.

The 90 bcm/day pipeline will enable Turkmenistan to export its natural gas to a wider overland markets beyond its existing markets in Russia, Iran and China.

The ADB, which has acted as the TAPI Secretariat since 2002, said the four nations will next work to attract commercial partners to build, finance, and operate the pipeline, estimated in 2008 to cost at least US$7.6 billion.

The bank said the various agreements were concluded after more than 20 years of “delicate negotiations” to connect one of Central Asia’s largest energy suppliers with South Asia’s fast-growing markets.

The bulk of exported gas will help meet surging energy demand in India and Pakistan – where energy needs are set to double by 2030 – while the remainder will alleviate chronic power shortages in Afghanistan.

“This is a truly historic moment of unparalleled regional cooperation,” said Klaus Gerhaeusser, ADB’s Director General of the Central and West Asia Department.

“The pipeline represents a win-win scenario for each TAPI country, as it will give Turkmenistan with the world’s fourth largest reserves more diverse markets and helps fuel the energy-hungry economies to the South.

“Each country stands to gain, making this not only the ‘Peace Pipeline,’ but a pipeline to prosperity as well.”