A Taliban delegation led by Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi, visited Turkmenistan on 14-15 January 2022. The core meeting was held with DPM Rashid Meredov (foreign affairs) of Turkmenistan in the narrow and expanded formats.
According to the press release of the foreign office of Turkmenistan (published separately):
“Particular attention at the talks was paid to joint infrastructure projects, which are an important aspect of trade and economic cooperation. In this regard, the parties discussed the implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) power transmission line. The ministers also noted the joint work on the construction of a railway from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.
“The interlocutors noted the need to further intensify Turkmen-Afghan cooperation in the field of providing regional security.
“R.Meredov stressed that Turkmenistan is undoubtedly, interested in the political and economic stability of Afghanistan, the well-being and unity of the Afghan people. In this regard, the Turkmen side confirmed that it would continue to provide regular, humanitarian support to the Afghan people, based on the principles of good neighborliness and centuries-old friendship.”
TOLO News, reporting on the visit, says:
“We hope that before the resumption of the TAPI pipeline project (gas), the work on the TAP project (electricity) will begin in the coming spring. Its construction may start in March,” Muttaqi said.
[. . .]
“After January 20, a technical team from Turkmenistan will come to Afghanistan. A technical team from our side will join them to investigate the areas,” said Ahmad Wali Haqqmal, a spokesman for the Finance Ministry.
* * *
The outcome of this visit should be viewed in juxtaposition of the visit of deputy minister of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan, Wepa Hajiyev, to Afghanistan on 8 January 2022.
According a press release of the foreign office of Turkmenistan, “meetings were held between the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan and the Deputy Chairman of the Government of Afghanistan Abdul Salam Hanafi, with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, with the Minister of Mines and Petroleum Shahabuddin Delawar, and with the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Mawlawi Sadar Azam.”
The press release further says:
“The parties paid special attention to intensifying the pace of joint projects in key sectors. In this regard, the two countries expressed their readiness for further cooperation in promoting construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) power transmission line and the railroad from Turkmenistan to some provinces of Afghanistan.
“The priority issues of this meeting include ensuring the well-being and stable development on the Afghan land and the possibility of integrating the country into large-scale economic, energy and transport-communications projects of regional importance.
“During the current meeting, the readiness of the Turkmen side, as a neighboring and neutral state, to promote establishment of a relevant dialogue and create conditions for the soonest establishment of peace, harmony and unity in Afghanistan was once again emphasized.
* * *
Meanwhile, there is the need to look at a news story from TOLO News of Afghanistan, published on 11 January 2022 i.e. after the visit of Hajiyev.
Here is the entire story:
Officials at the Foreign Ministry said that they will soon sign the remaining seven agreements on the TAPI project with TAPI project partners.
Waliullah Shaheen, the director of strategic studies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Turkmenistan will pay Afghanistan’s share for the TAPI project on loan.
“Regarding this issue, we have agreed with Turkmenistan that it will lend to Afghanistan the expenses to pay and Afghanistan will pay it back from the revenues of this project in the future,” said Waliullah Shaheen.
Based on data of the Foreign Ministry, there are sixteen documents for the implementation of the TAPI project, 9 of which were signed before the collapse of the previous government and seven of the remaining agreements will be signed soon.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance says that in the new fiscal year, the budget for the TAPI project will be allocated.
“For the TAPI project and other development projects, in the year of 1401 the budget will be considered,” said Ahmad Wali Haqmal, spokesman of the Ministry of Finance.
In the meantime, some economists believe that Afghanistan cannot afford to contribute to the TAPI project.
“It seems that the Islamic Emirate alone will not be able to launch the TAPI project or even to start its initial work, as the sanctions imposed and the foreign aid from the world has stopped,” said Sayed Nasir Reshtia, economist.
The TAPI project will cost between $9 billion to $10 billion, and the parties involved in the project and the responsibility for the construction and management of this large regional project is under an entity known as TAPI Pipeline Company Limited (TPCL). /// Tolo News, 11 Jan
* * *
Clearly, the visit of the Taliban delegation to Turkmenistan on 14-15 January 2022 was planned in the framework of the neutrality and holistic approach of Turkmenistan.
Just a few words about neutrality and holistic approach:
Neutrality of Turkmenistan is positive and active in nature. It affords a genuinely unbiased worldview and facilitates unfiltered context.
The holistic approach of Turkmenistan contends that everything is connected with everything else. Things don’t exist in vacuum.
With this in mind, it is easy to see the breakthrough achieved with the Taliban visit.
The first thing to notice is that the mega projects such as TAPI and TAP are getting back on the track. TAP (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan power transmission network) should be in motion as early as March this year.
Financing for this project is not the central part of the issue. The mechanism has been worked out to make if a self-propelled project.
It would, actually, also serve to break the inertia exerted by the delaying tactics of the Ghani administration to slow down the TAPI project.
This is the case of the classic cart and horse riddle. — One variant is to remove some of the load so that the horse can pull the cart through the rough ground. Once it reaches even grounds, the full load can be put back into the cart. Another variant is to arrange another cart and another horse and divide the load. Yet another variant is to attach one more horse to the cart. The idea is to exercise flexibility and keep the goal in mind without being distracted by obstructions.
The TAPI Corridor which includes TAPI gas pipeline, TAP power distribution network, fiber optics link, road, railways and other elements has entered a new phase with this visit.
There are some secondary observations too.
Turkmenistan received the Taliban delegation even though Turkmenistan doesn’t officially recognize the Taliban government. The idea here, based on neutrality and holistic approach, is that Turkmenistan recognizes the people of Afghanistan and will do everything to look after the interests of the people of Afghanistan.
This leads to the perplexing desire of the western governments and the western media, who are mirror images of each other, to trigger the collapse of the Taliban government. As usual with them, they are doing it ‘without knowing or caring for the consequences.’
On the other hand, the regional countries including Turkmenistan are coming together to help stabilize Afghanistan, avert the human tragedy that is building there, and pull Afghanistan into the ranks of the useful members of the regional initiatives. /// nCa, 17 January 2022