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India, CIS discussing crude pipeline alongside TAPI

November 29 2013, 16:43

Ambassador of Kazakhstan to India Dulat KuanyshevAmbassador of Kazakhstan to India Dulat KuanyshevThe proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is meant for fetching gas from the Turkmen fields, but now an idea has been mooted to build a parallel pipeline to carry crude — perhaps from Russia and Kazakhstan.

This was disclosed to Business Line by the Ambassador of Kazakhstan in India, Doulat Kuanyshev. He said that “an idea of TAPI and something parallel” is in the initial stages of discussion among various countries.

It could originate in Shymkent and come into Afghanistan via Uzbekistan, he said. (Shymkent is in the southern part of Kazakhstan, about 125 km north of Tashkent, the Uzbek capital.)

Asked if Kazakhstan could supply the crude, Kuanyshev said perhaps even Russia could (via Kazakhstan). “The idea has been circulated recently and has received positive resonation in Kazakhstan,” he said.

The $ 7.6-billion, 1,753 km-long TAPI gas pipeline is expected to be completed in 2017 and is meant to bring 14 billion cubic m of gas a day to India, out of the 33 billion that would be piped from Turkmenistan.

Kuanyshev said this to drive home the point that Kazakhstan and India were moving forward after last summer’s soreness, when the Kazakh government blocked the sale of stake of ConocoPhillip to India’s ONGC Videsh in a Kazakh oil field.

Asked how the issue had affected the bilateral relationship, Kuanyshev said that it impacted “in the way that we both are now in search of real ways to improve economic interaction.”

He defended the Kazakh decision saying that ONGC Videsh was not able to convince Kazakhstan that the Indians “would provide the necessary and substantial contribution to the project.” ONGC Videsh wanted to buy ConocoPhillips’ 8.4 per cent stake in the Kashagan oil field in the Caspian sea. Describing the Kashagan project as very unique, Kuanyshev said it called for a “lot of expertise and experience” to bring the field to production.

(The Indian off-the-record view, as told to this correspondent by a very senior Indian bureaucrat, was that the deal was lost to corruption.)

Since 2010, India has been buying natural uranium from Kazakhstan. Terming the contract to supply the nuclear fuel to the public sector Nuclear Power Corporation of India as “very successful”, Kuanyshev said a renewed agreement between NPCIL and its Kazakh counterpart was in the offing.

Asked if it was for the extension of the existing contract, the ambassador stressed that it was not just an extension but “there will be a new element in it”. However, he said he was not at liberty to disclose more details on it.

COAL AND LIGNITE

The biggest hurdle in the development of bilateral ties between India and Kazakhstan is the absence of an easy transportation system between the countries. Otherwise, Kazakhstan could supply coal, lignite and fertilisers to India’s “insatiable” demand, Kuanyshev said.

In another context, he spoke about another tri-country project — the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway line — connecting Uzan (Kazakh), Gyzylgaya (Turkmen) and Gorgan (Iran). This railway line would enable Indian goods to come to Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries faster, as opposed to the present route via Russia or China.

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