APP89-13 TURKMENISTAN: December 13 - Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif at the ground breaking ceremony of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline. APP

MARY, Turkmenistan, Dec 13 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Sunday joined the regional leaders to formally launch work on the historic Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, the largest gas pipeline project in the region.

The ground breaking ceremony of, what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the ‘trailblazing project’, was held near the city of Mary, the fourth largest and industrial city of the Central Asian state.

The Prime Minister was joined by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimohamedow and Indian Vice President Muhammad Hamid Ansari in inaugurating the work on the 1814-kilometer pipeline by pushing the button.

The four leaders also put their signatures on the pipeline to record the historical moment.

Upon completion by 2019, the project will supply Pakistan 1325 mmcfd (million cubic feet per day) supply of natural gas to help mitigate its energy crisis.

Addressing the ceremony, the Prime Minister said the presence of regional leaders at the ground-breaking ceremony clearly signalled the importance they attached to this ‘game changing project’ and their commitment for its early completion.

He said it was a momentous day that an achievement had been made possible through the perseverance, patience and collective endeavours of all stakeholders.

He also thanked the Turkmen President without whose involvement and keen interest, the project could not have seen rapid progress.

He also congratulated the Indian and Afghan leadership for their commitment to make the gas pipeline a success.

“TAPI is not just a gas transit initiative connecting energy-rich Central Asia with energy starved South Asia but a trailblazing project,” the Prime Minister said, adding it would open up door to regional economic progress and integration.

Nawaz Sharif said the flagship project would usher a new era of transformation of the lives of millions of people making the TAPI a symbol of shared prosperity and socio-economic development.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the TAPI was of great significance for Pakistan’s energy outlook, besides being a vital component of his government’s efforts to mitigate the country’s energy crisis through import of natural gas and electricity.

He said his government was also working on additional power projects as work on CASA-1000 was being carried out expeditiously.

“Regional connectivity subject is close to my heart. It is through the projects like TAPI, we can join hands for pursuing a common goal of strengthening of peace and prosperity in our region,” he added.

Referring to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Prime Minister said the most promising element of regional connectivity was recently launched as a package of multiple infrastructure and development projects.

He said that Pakistan also encouraged other countries in the region to take advantage of this project that would provide the shortest route through its seaports to Central Asia.

On the occasion, presidents of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Vice President of India also spoke and said that it would create a win-win situation for the component countries by opening new vistas of economic opportunities.

Starting from Turkmenistan’s Galkynys gas field, the pipeline will pass along Kandahar-Herat Highway, and moving through Pakistan, it will culminate at the Indian town of Fazilka, near the Pak-Indian border.

It will benefit around 1.5 billion people in the area and the ‘blue fuel’ known in the Turkmen’s local dialect will continue flowing by 33 billion cusec meters per annum.

A memorandum of understanding for supply of power from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan was also signed by leaders of the three countries.

Earlier, at Mary city airport the Turkmen President received Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The four leaders also had a brief meeting and discussed matters of mutual interest.

Traditional performance of Akhalteke horses and art masters on the occasion added colours of jubilation to the historical event.