India, Pak to sign US $7 billion gas pipeline deal

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Geneva:  India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan will sign an agreement in December to build a 1,800 km long trans-border gas pipeline estimated to cost US $7 billion.

"A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed recently between the four countries - India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan - and it will be operationalised by their leaders when they meet in December," Eklil Ahmad Hakimi, deputy foreign minister of Afghanistan, told reporters on Monday.

The proposed project will supply gas from the resource-rich Central Asia to energy-starved South Asia.

"This is a huge project involving energy cooperation between Central Asia and South Asia," the Afghan minister said, suggesting that the 1800 km underground pipeline will create employment for 20,000 people in his country now facing enormous security threats.

Hakimi, who is participating in an international meeting on regional cooperation in Central Asia, including sustainable development of Afghanistan.

He also mentioned about peace talks that are currently underway in Rome today, saying terrorism is not originating from Afghanistan.

US special representative for Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke and General David Petraeus and the Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul are talking part in these talks.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe along with ESCAP has convened a two-day meeting on how to speed-up regional cooperation in Central Asia, particularly in generating economic development in Afghanistan.

"Whereas little can be achieved without a minimum level of security, any progress made on the security front would be short-lived without being buttressed by a development effort to allow Afghanistan to build a sustainable future," said Andrey Vasilyev, UNECE deputy executive secretary.

In a background paper prepared for the meeting, the UNECE maintained that without neglecting the decisive importance of the security dimension, it is imperative to focus on the "civilian development effort".

Countries in Central America are land-locked pursuing divergent paths of economic development are facing a huge security challenge.

"Threats to Central Asia from Afghanistan have a regional dimension," said the UN official, suggesting that instability from Afghanistan spills over into bordering countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmensitan.

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