Afghan pipeline intrigues behind Sino-Indian military tensions?

India’s government this week publicly objected to any Chinese firm or consortium being given contracts related to the building of the TurkmenistanAfghanistanPakistanIndia (TAPI) gas pipeline. About 735 kilometers of the proposed pipeline will pass through Afghanistan and another 800 through Pakistan. The gas sales agreement for the pipeline is slated to be signed this April, and India’s stance may complicate matters. The Asian Development Bank has insisted on a role for Chinese firms, since these have “experience in building such long pipelines in a short time.”

New Delhi fears that China‘s involvement in the project could lead to Beijing being perceived as an “avuncular arbiter of peace” between India and Pakistan, the Hindustan Times reports Jan. 17. Delhi seeks to block a greater Chinese role in Afghanistan “security issues.” A long-term fear is China undermining India’s de facto leadership of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Himalayan border conflict gets scary
The new TAPI controversy comes days after Delhi charged that Chinese troops had crossed into Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir‘s frontier region of Ladakh—charges quickly denied by Beijing. “China’s border personnel have been respecting the two agreements made between the two countries to maintain peace and tranquility in border areas and have never crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC),” a foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing told the Indo-Asian News Service Jan. 11, calling the Indian accusations “baseless.”

This was the second such accusation in recent months, the Times of India noted Jan. 10. In September, a contractor on a development project in Ladakh’s Pangong area was reportedly threatened by Chinese troops, who were backed up with a helicopter. The area is near the contested Aksai Chin, which was ceded to China by Pakistan in defiance of India’s claim to the territory. Delhi recently protested that China has built a road, the Karakoram highway, through the disputed zone. (A border deal announced in 2005 recognizing Chinese sovereignty in Aksai Chin seems to have come to nothing.)

Chinese forces are credibly reported to have established a presence in the Gilgit region of Pakistan-held Kashmir, with Islamabad’s consent. (We can presumably ignore reports in the right-wing wack-o-sphere of Chinese troops amassing on Mexico’s border for a New World Order invasion of the USA.)

Yes, Virginia, there is an Afghanistan pipeline
We are constantly being told by the willfully obtuse that the Afghan pipeline scheme doesn’t exist—against all evidence. India’s Petroleum Ministry began the feasibility study in 2005. It was formally launched, with the Asian Development Bank lining up funding, the next year. That year also conveniently saw the death of Turkmenistan’s megalo-maniacal dictator Saparmurat “Turkmenbashi” Niyazov, who had agreed to the project but was doubltess seen as a less-than-reliable partner. We have long argued that the US adventure in Afghanistan is fundamentally aimed at establishing military control of a strategic pipeline route. The fact that regional rival China may have a hand in the TAPI project makes the US military presence in Afghanistan all the more critical.

Israel into the breach
Despite these tensions, there is an obvious convergence of Chinese, Indian and American interests in the region: the mutual threat of radical Islamism—of special interest to India in Kashmir and to China in Xinjiang, where Beijing is currently building a pipeline from Kazakhstan. We several years ago noted the Tel Aviv-Delhi anti-terror alignment, with Israel providing arms and even Mossad intelligence assistance for India’s Kashmir operations. In October, the Israeli business journal Globes reported on a new military pact between the Israeli Defense Forces and the People’s Liberation Army. Following an agreement struck in Beijing by the IDF’s Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu, Chinese officers will be traveling to Israel for a series of training courses. One course will be “spokesmanship in situations of mass casualties.”

File under “Life’s little ironies.”

See our last posts on the regional pipeline wars and the Great Game for Central Asia

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  1. China wins Afghan oil contract
    From the Shanghaist, Dec. 30:

    China wrote history this week after gaining approval for oil exploration in the Amu Darya Basin in Afghanistan, making it the first international oil deal made by Afghanistan with a foreign country in several decades.

    Wahidullah Shahrani, the Afghan mining minister in a statement during the signing ceremony: “Today is a historic day in Afghan history. This is the first time that Afghanistan signs a great contract for the country’s oil exploration.”

    China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) will manage the exploration with its Afghan joint venture partner Watan Group in the northern provinces of Sar-e Pul and Faryab by drilling in three oil fields: Kashkari, Bazarkhami and Zamarudsay.

    Afghanistan’s oil reserves are estimated to total 1.6 billion barrels. Afghanistan has been entirely reliant on fuel imports from neighboring Iran and Central Asian Nations, and is now more than open to foreign investors helping develop oil-extraction and refining capabilities.

    The oil fields in the Amu Darya Basin alone are estimated to harbor around 87 million barrels of oil, which can generate government revenues up to 5 billion dollars within 10 years. The oil deal is set for a 25 year term.