The lands that will be connected by the TAPI gas pipeline – Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – combine to form one of the most restive areas in world at the moment. Coupled with the complicated and less than friendly bilateral relations between the participating states, expecting the ambitious project to come online and deliver as intended was always a long shot. However, the recent inauguration of the final phase of the project – which aims to complete the 1,840-kilometre pipeline at a cost of $8 billion within two years to begin pumping 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas annually from Turkmenistan’s giant Galkynysh gas field – showed a polar opposite vision of cooperation and optimism, whose positive implications extend beyond the present energy project.

The prevailing security situation has put a virtual halt on most bilateral projects in the region; especially between India and Pakistan, which refuse to even discuss matters of mutual benefit while there are other outstanding security issues to be resolved. The fact that the participant countries can work beyond that self-imposed constraint is laudable and the beneficial result is there for all to see.

It wasn’t just the participants that billed the project as an important step for development and cooperation, most surprisingly even the Taliban commented on the importance of the project for Afghan development. The militant group controls large tracts of the land through which the pipeline is supposed to run, but has guaranteed that development work on the project will not be hindered by the group.

This certainly makes TAPI a rarity – it has gotten bitter geopolitical rivals and non-state actors to cooperate in mutual economic development.

It is hoped that this spirit of cooperation takes the project through the next few years till it becomes operational. It is also hoped that such pragmatic viewpoints can be adopted by the participant countries on other matters of cooperation as well.