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TURKMENISTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 6,010 7,672 4,000 110
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,120 1,200 950 131
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 353 - (25/05/10)

Tit for tat
The Turkmens have had a raw deal of late. They used to be the people dishing out the dirt to others - so there is something of poetic justice here.

The Turkmens founded the Seljuk dynasty that eventually took over the Turkish ecumene, based in Istanbul. Their original capital was Merv in Southern Turkmenistan.

Originally the largely nomadic Turkmen tribes did not form a national state and overlordship was divided between the Persian (Iranian) Empire, the Khivan Khanate and the Bukharan Emirate. Over the centuries the Turkmen developed a formidable reputation as caravan raiders and brigands, who were notorious for abducting Persians and, later, Russians, and selling them into slavery in the markets of Khiva and Bukhara.

The region comprising modern Turkmenistan was the last Central Asian territory to be brought under the control of Tsarist Russia in 1881. The Russians have been on top ever since, whether in the guise of Tsarists, Bolsheviks or since 1991 the natural head of the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States) of former Soviet Republics.

New prospects abound
Events are afoot in the world of natural gas. Russia has propositioned Ukraine to align, indeed conjoin, their gas companies, Gazprom and Naftogaz. This would have the most profound repercussions for Turkmenistan.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on May 18 he did not exclude the possibility of natural gas transit from Central Asian states to Ukraine via Russia. By Central Asia he meant primarily Turkmenistan, with the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world.

Ukraine purchased gas directly from Turkmenistan up to 2006. Deliveries were then handled by the Rosukrenergo company until it was squeezed out of the Ukrainian market by the efforts of then-Ukrainian premier Yulia Tymoshenko. Ukraine currently only buys Russian gas.

Ukraine elects a new president
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, newly elected in February, has said he would like the issue of Turkmenistan's gas supplies through Russia to be discussed in the future. He also said he was hoping on support from Moscow.

"This issue has never been excluded, but it can't be bilateral. It always has a trilateral character and ultimately is about our agreements with the Uzbeks or other colleagues, for example, the Turkmen," Medvedev told a Russian-Ukrainian forum in Kiev.

Russian gas giant Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz are continuing to discuss issues of integration and joint projects. However the decision about building the South Stream gas pipeline has already been taken and the project will be realized, Medvedev said.

The South Stream pipeline will pump 63 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas annually to Bulgaria, Italy and Austria and is part of Russia's efforts to cut dependence on transit nations, particularly Ukraine and Turkey. It is premissed on Russia buying enough gas fron Turkmenistan to release an equivalent amount for export.

However, Medvedev also said there was no "political" element to the decision to construct South Stream and that it did not mean that "alternatives" had to be ruled out.

India and Turkmenistan on May 24 discussed energy cooperation and signed several agreements signalling the desire of both countries to strengthen bilateral ties.

In a sign of continuing interest in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, New Delhi has offered to host a technical meeting of experts under the aegis of the Asian Development Bank.

In meetings with Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, there on his maiden visit in May, senior Indian leaders touched upon the progress of the pipeline being constructed by Ashgabat from its gas-rich eastern region to export terminals in the west.

India has shown interest in the possibility of Turkmenistan exporting some of the gas to northern Iran. It could then be swapped with gas from Iran's southern seaboard into an under-sea pipeline, obviating the need for a surface Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.

The SAGE (South Asia Gas Enterprise Pvt. Ltd.) project envisages a Middle-East natural gas gathering system connecting gas sources to the coast of the Arabian peninsula. From there, the SAGE family of pipelines plans to follow a route surveyed 15 years back and declared unviable as techniques of deepwater pipe-laying and manufacturing had not matured.

“Technology has made this feasible now,” said an official. The SAGE has finalised a MoU with National Iranian Gas Export Company for developing gas exports through this route, bypassing the territory of Pakistan. The Gas Authority of India Limited has also entered into a “principles of cooperation arrangement” for this sea route. However, the pipeline would pass on Pakistan's continental shelf.
India feels it is essential to engage separately with Turkmenistan as it is the only Central Asian country, which is not part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). New Delhi enjoys observer status at the SCO and is inclined to become a full member provided the six-nation grouping amends its membership rules at its forthcoming summit in June in Tashkent.

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