China expressed an interest in joining the TAPI gas pipeline.
Pakistan’s Daily Times reported that China would like to build a branch line through the neighboring country once the original project is completed, which would apparently be less costly than constructing another one directly from Turkmenistan. In the event that it comes into fruition, which remains to be seen since TAPI itself is far from finished and was discussed for years before any progress was even made on it, then the Chinese-destined line would represent a complementary energy component of the CPEC series of megaprojects that it would be running parallel to. It would also open up the possibility for Russia to play a crucial role in this initiative and therefore strengthen the Multipolar Trilateral that’s forming between itself, Pakistan, and China.
Russia is currently constructing the North-South gas pipeline from the southern port of Karachi to the central city of Lahore, and it also has plans to build an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline too. Moreover, Pakistan just discovered oil reserves of a disputed but nevertheless impressive size near the Iranian border, and newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan told the Russian Ambassador during a meeting last week that his country’s energy companies are welcome in Pakistan, thus raising the possibility that Moscow could get involved in this exciting opportunity too. The bigger picture that’s forming is that Russia might have a competitive chance to build TAPI’s Pakistani-transiting portion to China in the coming future by expanding its existing in-country projects to the People’s Republic.
With or without Russian participation, however, the very proposal of constructing a TAPI branch line through Pakistan to China underlines the South Asian state’s connectivity significance and proves why it could rightly be described as the “Zipper of Pan-Eurasian Integration”. Pakistan’s geography, as proven by CPEC, endows it with the possibility of connecting the Eurasian landmass’ various integrational blocs of the Eurasian Union, SAARC, the ECO, and the SCO, therefore making it the center of strategic gravity between them. Expanding this concept even further into the energy dimension through the proposed CPEC-parallel pipeline could give all of the participating countries an even greater stake in Pakistan’s future success and consequently lead to the formation of even greater security ties between them.