India and Turkmenistan on Saturday agreed to push for early implementation of the ambitious TAPI gas pipeline project as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The two sides inked seven agreements, including for cooperation in fertilisers and in defence.
Modi, who arrived in the Turkmen capital on Friday evening from Ufa in Russia, said in his media statement after Saturday's talks that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project was the "most significant initiative in our relationship".
"This could transform regional economic cooperation and bring prosperity along the route. We welcomed the agreements between the four countries for the pipeline. We underlined the need to implement the project quickly," he said.
Modi said he proposed that both sides should explore multiple options, including the land-sea route through Iran, for transporting the gas.
The $10 billion TAPI project is expected to bring Turkmen natural gas from its giant Dauletabad and Galkynysh gas fields to Pakistan and India. The project is likely to take off in December.
The joint statement said the TAPI project "forms a key pillar of economic engagement between the two countries" and its implementation will have "a transformational impact on trade between the two countries".
Both sides decided to "take measures for early implementation of this important regional project".
Modi also said he conveyed India's interest in long-term investment in the energy sector in Turkmenistan. ONGC Videsh Limited is to open an office in Ashgabat.
Stressing on connectivity, Modi expressed gratitude for Turkmenistan's support to India in joining the Ashgabat Agreement on trade and transit.
The Ashgabat Agreement is a transit agreement established in year 2011 between the countries of Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Oman. Kazakhstan has also joined the bloc.
Modi said he proposed that Turkmenistan join the International North South Transport Corridor project, which aims to connect Mumbai to St. Petersburg.
"Together with the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran rail link, and India's proposed investment in Chahbahar Port in Iran, these initiatives will strengthen connectivity between our countries," he said.
The two leaders welcomed the signing of an MoU between the state-led Turkmenhimiya and Indian PSU Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited to provide a framework for long-term sourcing of urea from Turkmenistan.
The leaders welcomed the Indian proposal to set up a urea production facility in Turkmenistan in collaboration with Turkmen entities, said the joint statement.
In the field of terrorism, both sides agreed to step up efforts against cross-border threats such as terrorism, organised crime and illegal drug-trafficking.
Both also welcomed the signing of the Defence Cooperation Agreement, which would provide a framework for intensifying bilateral defence and security cooperation through exchanges of high and mid-level visits, training and dialogue between the defence ministries.
Modi said the defence agreement "is a reflection of our shared interest in closer security cooperation, including in combating terrorism".
"As India deepens its relations with Central Asia, Turkmenistan will play an essential part," Modi said.
Later, Modi inaugurated a traditional medicine and yoga centre in the Turkmenistan capital and unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the centre. He praised the local students for a demonstration of yoga they presented.
"I give you 100 on 100 marks for the yoga demonstration. Yoga teaches people to be one with nature. Its aim is not just physical exercise, it also touches the mind and soul," he said.
Modi hoped the yoga centre and the Mahatma Gandhi bust would spread a positive message across Central Asia.
Modi also laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Turkmenistan's first president Saparmurat Niyazov.
He also presented a specially handcrafted horse saddle to Berdimuhamedov, known to be passionate about horses.
Turkmenistan was the fourth stop on Modi's tour of Central Asian countries. He has visited Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. He was in Ufa in Russia for the BRICS and SCO summits. He travels to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan later.