After years of waiting, work has finally started on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline project and following a ground-breaking ceremony in Herat on Friday to mark the occasion, messages of congratulations poured in.
US ambassador to Kabul John R Bass said on Twitter: “Congrats on today’s (Friday’s) groundbreaking ceremony in Herat for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline! This bold initiative will energize regional cooperation, provide power and jobs for the Afghan people, and become an important source of revenue for Afghanistan.”
The UK embassy in Kabul said on its Twitter page: “Wishing the TAPI project every success. Enhancing regional connectivity is a great step to boosting Afghanistan economy and providing jobs and power.”
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, meanwhile said: “This is what should guide and define our region: TAPI, CASA, ..., greater economic integration and interdependency greater regional prosperity, harmony, peace and stability!
The ceremony to mark the start of work in Afghanistan of TAPI was attended by high-ranking government officials including the Afghan President, the Turkmen President, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, and India's Minister of State for External Affairs, along with the NATO and US Forces Commander in Herat.
The launch of the project was widely welcomed and people across the country said it would help build the foundation of economic development in Afghanistan.
Even the Taliban welcomed the move and declared its support.
In a statement issued by the group it said the Taliban “views the project as a vital foundational economic element for the country and considers its proper implementation as good news for the Afghan people.”
As work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project started in Herat province, Afghans said this was a major boost for the country’s and that it brings empathy and solidarity among the people.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held in Herat on Friday to launch the start of work on the Afghanistan section of pipeline that will feed natural gas to the three countries from Turkmenistan.
Attending Friday’s ceremony was President Ashraf Ghani, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Mobashar Jawed Akbar India's Minister of State External Affairs, NATO and US Forces Commander Gen. John Nicholson and other high-ranking officials.
Addressing the event, Ghani said Afghanistan will do everything it can to complete the project.
At the same event, Pakistan Prime Minister said his country is committed to long-term economic goals which guarantee stability in the region.
Abbasi wished Afghanistan success for its economic projects and said, “your development is our development, security in Afghanistan is security in Pakistan”.
Turkmenistan President meanwhile stressed the need for increasing his country’s cooperation with Afghanistan.
He said the implementation of the TAPI project is a huge achievement for countries involved, adding that the project will have a good impact on Afghanistan’s security and economy.
He vowed to provide more opportunities of development projects in Afghanistan.
India's Minister of State External Affairs said his country is committed to supporting the project.
Whenever the security of TAPI was mentioned in the media, the Taliban were projected as the main enemy and primary threat.
But on Friday the Taliban issued a statement and announced their support from the project.
The Taliban said: “The Islamic Emirate declares its support for the implementation of the said project passing through areas under our control and calls all sides involved to be mindful of the principled policy of the Islamic Emirate”.
Previously, a breakaway group of the Taliban insurgents also announced its support to the development project.
The Afghan government meanwhile says it has stepped-up security measures to secure the pipeline project as it is a major economic opportunity for Afghanistan.
The 1,814-kilometer gas pipeline will pass through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. At least 816 kilometers of the pipeline will pass through the territory of Afghanistan.
The pipeline passes through Herat, Farah, Nimroz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces of Afghanistan.
TAPI will transport gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India via a 1,814km pipeline.
In Afghanistan, the TAPI pipeline will be constructed alongside the Kandahar–Herat Highway in western Afghanistan, and then via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan.
The pipeline will be 1,814 kilometers long and will have the capacity of transferring 33 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India through Herat, Farah, Helmand and Nimroz provinces of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, industrialists and religious scholars have also said the Afghan people in general must be mobilized to support the TAPI project.
According to factory owners, industrial townships in Herat will be the first to benefit from the project.
Analysts said the TAPI project can bring changes in people’s lives in Afghanistan and that it will have a positive impact on the country’s economy.
“By implementation of this project, poverty will be decreased to some extent. Investment will increase, and industry owners and investors will work here,” economic affairs analyst Taj Mohammad Talash said.
“This project will reduce the unemployment rate. It will provided a great chance for improvement of agriculture, industries and energy sector,” economic affairs analyst Sayed Ghias Saeedi said.
While Afghanistan start of construction of the Afghanistan section of TAPI, economic commentators welcomed the project and said it was a milestone in the country’s economic development.
Herat residents also welcomed the project and said they will support its implementation. The residents said they will do whatever they can to ensure the project is completed.
“This big economic project is a unique project in Afghanistan's history,” Nisar Haris, head of Herat People’s Association said.
“This project can help bring security and social welfare,” Majla Hakak, a resident of Herat said.
“All people are proud of this project. It is a matter of pride for us,” Herat resident Sayed Ahmad said.
Dozens of residents of eastern provinces celebrated the inauguration. They came out to Jalalabad city roads and danced to the beats of local songs.
The residents said they hope the project will bring more employment opportunities to the country and that it will improve Afghanistan’s economy.
“We announce our support to this project and will try to make this project successful. We urge government to implement other projects here too. Our message to the world is that we as a nation want peace, not war,” Hedayatullah Zahir, head of Watanpal Civil Society Organization in Nangarhar, said.
“From one hand this project will create jobs for the people and on the other hand, it will directly improve people's lives,” Mohammad Hanif Gardiwal, a tribal elder from the province, said.
In addition, residents of eastern Khost province also announced their support for TAPI and welcomed the project and called for the implementation of more economic projects in the country.
“People of Afghanistan must support the project, because this project benefits a lot of Afghanistan and we must support this project so it is implemented,” said Anamullah, a Khost resident.
The culture and information ministry's youth affairs department deputy head Kamal Sadat, want the government to provide job opportunities for the young people with the launch of such large-scale development projects.
Reports indicates that the plan was devised over 20 years ago - during the Taliban time. However it is only now being rolled out.
The pipeline is not just a gas project, but also a fiber optic line – all of which will go towards job creation.
Afghanistan is expected to earn $500 million USD in transit duties annually from the project.