The Baku oil field at the beginning of the 20th century was the largest in the world, and it remained the largest Soviet field until the 1940s. The presence of oil was known since the 8th century, and by the 15th century oil for lamps was obtained from surface wells. Modern commercial exploitation began in 1872, second only to Ploesti in Romania. Today much of the oil has been exhausted yet the Caspian sea holds the world's third largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Presently the Russia and Iran are the big oil users of the Caspian sea oil. The oil is also piped from Baku to Batumi on the Black Sea or sent by tankers across the Caspian and up the Volga River. Besides oil processing, Baku is a large center for the production of equipment for the oil industry, in which 20 factories are engaged. Other engineering industries work on shipbuilding, carry out repair and manufacture electrical machinery. Chemicals, cement, textiles, footwear, and foodstuffs are also produced.
Caspian sea is the world's largest inland sea, lying to the east of the Caucasus Mountains and dominating the huge flat expanses of western Central Asia. The Caspian sea is landlocked between Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan, the largest Central Asian country also has rich oil reserves whereas Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have huge natural gas reserves.
But, how to guard the pipelines posed and poses a big question mark to the global economic powers being lead under the political and military leadership of the United States. The pipelines would pass through the lands that were run by warlords and ethnic separatists which gives military implications to the whole affair.
Transportation of the Caspian sea oil and gas from Karakum desert via Russia would have greatly enhanced Russian political and economic control over the Central Asian republics. Whereas, piping this through Iran would have enriched a regime which the US has been seeking to curb. And sending it the long way round through China would have been two expensive among other strategic complications.
George Monbiot in a report on America's Pipe Dream published by "The Guardian of London comments, "pipelines through Afghanistan allow the US both to pursue its aim of diversifying energy supply' and to penetrate the world's most lucrative markets. Growth in European oil consumption is slow and competition is intense. In south Asia, by contrast, demand is booming and competitors are scarce. Pumping oil south and selling it in Pakistan and India is far more profitable than pumping it west and selling it in Europe."
In 1995 the US oil company Unocal (Union Oil Company of California,) started negotiating to build oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and into Pakistan's ports on the Arabian sea. The company's scheme required a single internationally recognized government in Afghanistan, which would guarantee safe passage for its goods. Soon after the Taliban took Kabul in September 1996, the "Telegraph" reported that "oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America's, had been so supportive of the Taliban. Unocal had invited some of the leaders of the Taliban to Houston, where they were royally entertained. The company suggested paying them 15 cents for every thousand cubic feet of gas it pumped through the land they had conquered.
John Maresca, head of Unocal International Affairs, in February, 1998 had said that growth in demand for energy in Asia and sanctions against Iran determined that Afghanistan remained "the only other possible route" for Caspian oil. The company, once the Afghan government was recognized by foreign diplomats and banks still hoped to build a 1,000-mile pipeline, which would carry a million barrels a day. Only in December 1998, four months after the embassy bombings in east Africa, did Unocal drop its plans.
Anyway, Afghanistan's strategic importance did not change. A few days before the attacks on New York, the US energy information administration reported that "Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian sea. This potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export pipelines through Afghanistan."
Stable governments in the areas, pipelines will be passed through, are prerequisite to the world powers for making and honouring the international agreements with. The warring ethnic groups, warlords or the fundamentalists would not only endanger security and safety of the pipelines expanded over thousands of miles but also they get a leverage to exploit the oil companies and governments by threatening to blow up the pipelines. This made and makes military intervention obligatory in Afghanistan and Central Asia or where required. That is why America and the allies after defeating Taliban in Afghanistan are building up airbases in Afghanistan and the Cental Asian republics.
Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan, a country which did not even exist a decade ago, the United States Air Force is building a base that within months will be home to 3000 military personnel and about two dozen American and allied aircrafts. The base is said to be a serious commitment to maintain not just air operations over Afghanistan for the foreseeable future but also a robust military presence in the region well after the war. Besides this the US military has agreements with Uzbekistan, where also 3000 Americans are deployed near the Afghan border, and Tajikistan. The fact remains that the US military is also present in Pakistan.
In the first week of February, 2002, Colin Powell, the Secretary of State said, "America will have a continuing interest and presence in Central Asia of a kind that we could not have dreamed of before." Just how long the US plans to remain in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Central Asia is anyone's guess but for the fact that Baku and the Karakum desert hold oil and natural gas resources to be exploited for not less than 30 years, one could say that the US' stay in the regions would not be less than 30 years.
The oil and gas in the Central Asia promises a business of 4 trillion US dollars which brings good news not only to the global financial powers but also for the Central Asian republics, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Turkey as a network of pipelines expanded over thousands of miles would naturally give a handsome boost to the economies of the states the pipelines will be
build from and passed through. China could also grab a notable share of the natural resources.
The states would naturally experience a boost in their economies which would further draw more investment in other fields as the conditions at home get more conducive.
An agreement by Pakistan government for the pipeline with the concerned parties is underway. Though international monetary agencies have not yet given their nod to release finances but they are just waiting for the circumstances to get more favourable to support the network of pipelines
costing billions of US dollars.
Turkmenistan-Pakistan pipeline project is expected to cost US$ 1.9 billion (1,271-kilometers) and for its 640-kilometer extension pipeline to India another $600 million are required.
An investment of some billion dollars would generate a business of trillions of dollars.
The stage is set just wait a little more!