Afghanistan pipeline project advances

Remember all those wacky conspiracy theorists who said that “liberating” Afghanistan from the Taliban was really about building an oil pipeline through the country? From India’s, May 19:

India joins Afghanistan gas pipeline project
The Cabinet on Thursday approved India joining the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan natural gas pipeline and the inclusion of 1,113 km of national highways for upgradation under the third phase of the National Highway Development Project.

It also gave its approval for carrying out amendments to the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) and Financial Institutions Laws Bill 2005.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its assent for the development of a six-lane highway between Vadodara and Surat on a build-operate-transfer basis.

Briefing the press after the meeting in New Delhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi said with India joining the project, it would be called TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline.

The minister said the additional 1,113 km, which were being upgraded under the third phase of the NHDP programme, were over and above the 10,000 km that had already been approved for the third phase.

“The additional cost implication would amount to Rs 7,257 crore, out of which the investment from the government would be Rs 3,170 crore and private sector investment would be Rs 4,087 crore,” he said.

On the proposed amendment to the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) and Financial Institutions Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2005, the minister said approval had been granted with a view to make the boards of directors more flexible and to improve corporate governance.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August 2005. Thereafter, it was referred to the standing committee for finance, for examination. The committee had recommended some modifications, which would soon be introduced in Parliament, the minister added.

He said an upfront negative grant of Rs 975 crore had been offered to the National Highway Authority of India for a six-lane highway between Vadodara and Surat.

Meanwhile, the CCEA has also approved a proposal for providing non-plan budgetary support of Rs 140.31 crore towards liquidating outstanding salaries and wages of employees in 15 public sector enterprises (PSE). These include Andrew Yule and Co, Bharat Heavy Plates and Vessels Ltd, Bharat Wagon Engineering Ltd and HMT Ltd.

The minister said the Cabinet has approved enactment of a new legislation on the Payment and Settlement Systems Bill, 2006. The Bill seeks to provide for an explicit legal basis for payment and settlement systems.

It empowers the Reserve Bank of India to regulate payment systems. “The legislation will provide for a legal basis to recognise clearing houses, the electronic mode of payments and supervision over securities clearing and settlement.

Other important decisions included approval of the project report for Kusumuda Opencast Expansion Project of South Eastern Coalfields Limited.

See our last posts on Afghanistan and the Great Game for Central Asia.