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Published Date: Sep 4, 2013

SDPI Press Release (September 4, 2013)

As
a gateway to resource rich Central Asia, Afghanistan holds the key to unlock a
new potential in region by acting as a transit route for energy supplies from
Central Asia to energy markets in South Asia – a scenario with win-win
potentials for all stakeholders.

This was discussed at ‘Abu Dhabi
Process’ meeting held here on 3-4 September and attended by high level
representatives of governments, parliaments and private sector from
Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, USA and Europe. The
two-day meeting titled ”Afghanistan Reconnected: Linking Energy Suppliers to
Consumers in Asia” was organized by EastWest Institute in Brussels in
collaboration with the government of Pakistan  and the Sustainable Development Policy
Institute (SDPI).

The “Abu Dhabi Process,” supported
by Governments of United Arab Emirates and Germany, promotes regional dialogue
on post-2014 economic transition in Afghanistan, and highlights Afghanistan’s
role as transit and trade hub, connecting economies and resources of Central
and South Asia. The first consultation was held in Istanbul in April, 2013 on
regional infrastructure.

Meeting came up with tangible recommendations
to realise the dream of regional energy corridor such as integrated power grid
built in various blocks; joint feasibility for India-Pakistan grid connectivity
carried out by state transmission companies NTDC and PGCI;  Establishment of a joint power development
company; Implementation of quick impact and pilot projects to boost trust and
confidence as well as create economic dream among the regional stakholders.; Eastablish
Asscoiation of regional private power investors; Establishing of a Regional
States Joint Trust Fund to suport energy projects; and enagage Pakistan and
India in human resource development of Afghanistan in particular and the region
at large.

Speaking at the occasion, Sartaj
Aziz, Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security termed
Afghanistan as a vital connector for regional energy, communication and
transmission corridor. Talking of his government’s efforts link to these
corridors, he referred to recent agreements on Peshawar-Kabul Road and
Chaman-Qandhar railway line, said that these links would not only improve trade
relations within two countries but would also help connect Central Asia with
the South Asia. He said that signing of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade
Agreement (APTTA) is a step in right direction and would be implemented in
letter and spirit.

Sartaz Aziz was of the view that
peace in Afghanistan means peace in the region. He reassured Pakistan’s
continued support in reconstruction of Afghanistan, particularly post 2014,
when international development support is likely to be reduced. He informed
that Pakistan is helping Afghanistan in design and development of Kunar dam
which has a capacity to generate 1500 MW of electricity adding that CASA-1000
has now been converted into CASA- 1300 with further addition of 300 MWs .

Earlier, in his inaugural remarks
on the first day of the conference, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Federal Minister for
Petroleum and Natural Resources urged Pakistan, Afghanistan and neighboring
countries to engage in intensive partnerships to meet their growing energy
demands and also to harness massive economic opportunities provided by energy
trade. He said that region is at the forefront of a transition towards energy
economy as the ‘energy security’ has become a key priority for all the
countries.

The Minister congratulated SDPI
on its work on an Energy Vision of Pakistan for the year 2035, and added that Pakistan
will also be able to help Afghanistan in developing a comprehensive energy
strategy for development.

Proposing areas of cooperation
between Afghanistan-Pakistan, the minister stated that “Pakistan can assist
Afghanistan in capacity building through Pakistani universities, help in
geological surveys, training to Afghan engineers in hydropower projects and
facilitation in engineering consulting services in developing micro and macro
dams. He also identified assisting Afghanistan in terms of building
infrastructure, transmission lines and efficient grid system.

He reaffirmed resolve to continue
with TAPI and Pak-Iran gas pipeline, adding that international sanctions don’t
apply to Pak-Iran gas pipeline project.

The minister highlighted that
Pakistan has been blessed with 120000 MW of hydropower with the highest
capacity factor, more viable geology and consistent water flow. He requested
global community to help develop these unconventional resources and provide
facilitation in skill development and capacity building.  He also
talked of recent US reports on massive Shale oil and gas reservoirs in
Pakistan, and pledged commissioning of detailed commercial and technically
studies and preparing conducive policies for involvement of private investors
to exploit these resources.

During one of the session on “Central Asian Energy Resources and potential for trade” it was shared that
Turkmenistan is annually producing 24 billion cubic meter of natural gas
whereas Tajikistan has abundant potential for hydroelectricity with installed
capacity of 7 billion Kwh. It was observed that Central Asian countries have
equipped with modern road and rail network for transportation of energy
resources and the only hindrance is to connect these resources with South Asia
via Afghanistan. 

Moreover, talks focused on
creating transparency in energy mechanisms and sectors, and efficient
regulation and implementation of energy frameworks.

The debate over slow progress on
energy transmission identified some role of  International Financial
Institutions (IFI), and called for proactive role from regional governments
along with lesser dependence on IFI’s and external powers for faster
development of resources. However they also pointed towards host of other
problems such as complex security issues, political instability, post 2014
scenario and fragile sovereignty beside many others.

The session on potential for
private sector engagement concluded with a general consensus that the region
meets all the pre-requisites for any private sector investments in ‘energy
trade’. Abundant supply, unprecedented demand, attractive prices and willing
public partners can be a dream come true for any investor. Hence the private
investment in energy presents a win-win situation for all requiring just
conducive policies, political will for firm implementation and a secure
business environment.

A session on “Afghanistan as an
Energy Importer and Producer” discussed Afghanistan as a region with tremendous
untapped natural resources. Citing US National Renewable Energy Laboratory
study, it was shared that wind energy potential in western Afghanistan was
estimated at 158,000 MW whereas hydropower was said to be in excess of 23000
MW. Moreover, US geological survey projects 1.6 billion barrels of unexplored
petroleum reserves with 444 billion cubic meter of probable natural gas and
0.50 billion barrels of probable Liquid Natural Gas. For optimum utilization of
these resources, participants suggested active relationship between foreign
investors, government and the private sector, building long term capacity and
holding dialogue among all Afghan stakeholders with a defined goal of common
opportunities.

Other avenues of cooperation that
were discussed in later sessions were the “Indo-Pak interconnect in Punjab,”
which would bring 500MW transmission in asynchronouse mode.  On this donor agencies mentioned that
financing was available for regional projects and stakeholder countries will
need to make small investments to make this project achievable. It was stated
that shared economic priorities will align strategic priorities as observed in
the European model.