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Central Asia Fellows 2015

Anceschi Luca, University of Glasgow, UK

“The Geo-Strategic Implications of the TAPI Pipeline Project”
(May-June 2015)

Biography:
Luca Anceschi is Lecturer in Central Asian Studies at the University of Glasgow. A graduate of the University of Napoli L’Orientale and of La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia), his research has been mostly concerned with the Politics and International Relations of post-Soviet Central Asia. His first book, Turkmenistan’s foreign policy – Positive Neutrality and the Consolidation of the Turkmen regime (Routledge 2008), represented the first book-length account of Turkmenistani foreign policy published in Western languages. His articles have appeared on Central Asian Survey, Europe-Asia Studies, Nationalities Papers,and the Journal of Arabian Studies. He is currently completing a monograph entitled Kazakhstan’s foreign policy – Regime neo-Eurasianism in the Nazarbaev era (forthcoming with Routledge).

Abstract:
In early October 2014, Gazprom announced its decision to suspend purchases of natural gas from Central Asian providers, opting not to engage in any future negotiation to renew existing contracts with key regional exporters, including Uzbekistan and, most notably, Turkmenistan. While capturing on the one hand the impact that recently imposed economic sanctions are exerting on the Russian economy, this announcement raises on the other a number of critical questions on the long-term energy strategy of post-Soviet Turkmenistan – Central Asia’s largest exporter of natural gas. As Gazprom announced its eventual withdrawal from the Central Asian gas market, and with the Turkmenistani-Iranian energy relationship entering a phase of decline, gas trade with China now remains the only long-term option for the commercialisation of Turkmenistan’s natural gas. This scenario, given the one-dimensional nature of the Turkmenistani economy, is likely to raise a few eyebrows in Ashgabat, where successive regimes have pursued – with different emphases at different junctures – a fairly consistent strategy of diversification for Turkmenistan’s gas linkages.

Within this strategy, a relatively significant, if at times rhetorical, role has been played by the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline – an ambitiously designed infrastructure project that aims to connect Turkmenistan’s eastern gas fields (and the giant Galkynysh field more in particular) with the economies located on the Indian sub-continent. In early July 2014, the conclusion of a major operational agreement involving the four state-partners removed the final obstacles to the full implementation of the TAPI framework. The entry into line of the TAPI gas pipeline – currently scheduled for late 2017 – will inevitably reshape Turkmenistan’s energy outlook and, more widely, is expected to revolutionise the geopolitics of Eurasian natural gas. It is precisely to these closely interconnected processes that this study devotes its core attention. The study aims to:

  1. Contextualise recent developments in the operationalisation of the TAPI pipeline project;
  2. Investigate the specific strategies through which Turkmenistan’s energy policy reacted to the progress of the TAPI framework; and
  3. Relate TAPI’s operationalisation prospects to the gas strategies devised by key Eurasian exporters (Russia, Iran) and importers (China).

Email: Luca.Anceschi [at] glasgow.ac.uk