India has proposed building a pipeline to carry direct supplies of hydrocarbons from Kazakhstan's oil and gas rich Caspian region. The proposal is part of New Delhi's wider attempt to deepen co-operation with Astana to help secure the energy it needs to meet India's steadily growing demand.
The idea was floated during Kazakh Foreign Affairs Minister Erlan Idrissov's visit to New Delhi on March 5-6, according to reports in the Indian press. However, so far the media has not specified whether the plan would involve oil or gas imports.
Astana said it will consider the issue over the next 240 days, with Idrissov and his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid agreeing to resume discussions at meetings planned for later this year. Khurshid is scheduled to visit later in the year, while the pair is also due to meet in Almaty at a regional meeting on security in Afghanistan.
The latter meeting addresses the key issue. Studies on the proposed pipeline, which would be around 1,500km in length and run through five countries, have yet to start, but as with other efforts to plug the growing thirst of the sub-continent into Central Asia's expanding energy production, the instability in Afghanistan stands in the way.
The pipeline would start in the southern Kazakh city of Shymkent, close to the Uzbek border, then run south through Uzbekistan. After that it would enter Afghanistan to follow the route of the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. The newly proposed Kazakh route could potentially be extended north to open the way for Russian exports, Indian officials claim.
TAPI has been under consideration for several years, but raising investment has proved tricky and the estimated cost of the project has steadily increased. To that end, the plan remains at the proposal stage, thanks largely to the continuing security problems in Afghanistan, although the closed nature of Turkmenistan is also a deterrent for some.
Commenting on the Kazakhstan-India pipeline proposal, which would be even longer than TAPI, an Indian official told The Hindi: "With the TAPI pipeline on the drawing board, this pipeline doesn't seem to be a political impossibility."
India's proposal is also clearly a bid to deepen its commitment to Astana, as it seeks options to secure supplies of oil and gas, including in the Caspian region. State oil company OVL is pushing for approval from the Kazakh government of an acquisition of a stake in the giant Kashagan oil field, but Astana is stalling. The Indian company already has a 25% stake in Kazakhstan's offshore Satpaev block.
The BP energy outlook 2030 forecasts that Asia - excluding China and the OECD countries - will see oil demand increase by 6m barrels per day in the next two decades, with almost two-thirds of the increase stemming from India.
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