President Ashraf Ghani on Monday said that bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan continues to grow which bodes well for integration and economic development between the two neighbors and the region.
Welcoming Sunday’s inauguration of the TAPI pipeline project by Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indian leaders, Ghani said that initially there was a perception that TAPI was just a pipe dream.
“Critics initially said that TAPI was just a dream, but the foundation of the project was laid on Sunday with Allah’s help,” he said.
Touching on the hardships faced by Turkmen people during their recent history, Ghani said that today Turkmenistan has changed into an energy producing hub and Afghanistan can learn from its experiences.
“Turkmenistan has changed into a hub of energy production under the wise leadership of the president of Turkmenistan [Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov]. Turkmenistan is a good neighbor and TAPI will revive Afghanistan’s importance in the region. TAPI is like a new silk route,” he said.
On the importance of energy in the modern world, Ghani said natural gas forms the basis of life today. He said the transfer of gas from Turkmenistan to other countries promotes regional integration and harmony in addition to its economic and commercial benefits.
“Gas forms the basis of life today. It is not only the issue of gas transfer. It also enhances economic integration,” he added.
He said that the implementation of the TAPI project reaffirms Afghanistan’s inter-connectivity in the region.
According to him, a fiber optic network project will coincide with TAPI. He said that an electricity project transferring power from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Farah, Herat and Helmand province is also under discussion and an estimated amount of $8 billion USD will be spent on it of which most of the money will be invested in Afghanistan.
In addition, Ghani said Afghanistan wants projects such as TAPI. “730km of pipeline that passes through Afghanistan will create many jobs.”
Ghani states the Turkmenistan technical institute will provide training to eligible Afghans living in four provinces along the pipeline.
“Afghanistan will receive $400 million USD annually from the project. On behalf of the Afghan nation I would like to say that the TAPI [project] is the base of Afghanistan’s economic reform” he said.
While rumors over the security of TAPI pipeline continue to do their rounds, Ghani said special forces will be trained to safeguard the pipeline. He called on the Afghan people to help maintain security for the project.
“Special forces will be trained for security of TAPI. I want to call upon Afghan youths for their support for this project,” he said. “This is a national and regional project to defend Afghanistan’s future generations. TAPI’s inauguration generated a positive response in Afghanistan on social media which is encouraging,” he added.
The president meanwhile offered his congratulations to the Afghan people in the wake of the TAPI inauguration. “My aim is to change Afghanistan into an economic corridor in the region,” he said.
In answer to a question regarding the proxy war Ghani said: “We aren’t a palace for a proxy war, it is a wrong perception, millions live here, we focus on cooperation and understanding in the region.”
Responding to a question regarding Iran’s negativity over TAPI Ghani said: “TAPI is not a threat to others, Iran needs billions of dollars investment in its energy sector and will become a positive player after international sanctions are lifted.”
In conclusion, Ghani said that he had no authority to determine the fate of the Durand Line with Pakistan and that the authority lies with the Afghan people.
This comes two days after leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Turkmenistan broke ground to inaugurate the TAPI project, worth $10 billion USD.
The pipeline, which is due to be finished by 2019, will carry gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India.