Pak-Iran Gas pipeline project is about to launch on March 11 this year and if everything goes well, it will be completed within 15 months. In 2010 Pakistan and Iran agreed that Tehran would supply between 750 million cubic feet (21 million cubic meters) and one billion cubic feet per day of gas by mid-2015.
To me, it’s a pleasant surprise that despite enormous pressure from USA, Pakistan is showing steadfastness in completion of Gas Project from Iran believing it an affordable energy and in national interest. US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson said that America supports the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) pipeline project instead of Iran Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project. Whereas US State Department spokesman said that it’s in Pakistan’s best interests to avoid any activity of violating American restrictions on major financial deals with Iran that may lead to any sanction on Pakistan and US is helping Pakistan for providing a better way to meet its energy needs.
Is it a major foreign-policy shift from Pakistan?
Against American pressure, so far, Pakistani leadership is showing resistance and made it clear that it would complete the venture and least bothered about the threats of US sanctions. Pakistan must be enjoying full support from China and Russia on this issue as since last two years Pak-Russia relations have entered in new phase and China is Pakistan’s old dearest friend.
Recently President Zardari said Pakistan was a sovereign country and had every right to pursue projects in national interest and did not intend to offend anyone. Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline should be viewed purely in the context of meeting its energy needs. He also hoped the critics of the project (specially USA) would realize Pakistan’s energy crisis and the need for importing gas from Iran. Iranian President Ahmadinejad also dismissed the US pressure on the IP project, saying the America cannot affect the project and the gas will reach Pakistan as per the plan. Iran has already completed a 900-km portion of 56-inch diameter pipeline in its territory and the remaining 200 km up to the Pakistani border is about to complete in next year.
For Pakistan, arrangement of funds from Financial Institutions for this project would be very difficult, as everybody knows these institutions are on beck and call of USA and was the main reason that Pakistan could not start construction of 780 kilometers of the pipeline on its side that was to cost $1.5 billion. So at the moment, this seems a big hurdle for completion of this project in time.
Can UN resolutions against Iran, stop Pakistan to carry out this Project successfully?
According to Pakistani officials IP project is beyond the scope of relevant UN resolutions, which we are obliged to comply with like all other member states. Among other regional countries, China and India are also importing substantial amounts of oil from Iran, India’s second major oil supplier after Saudi Arabia and China’s third-largest supplier of crude after Saudi Arabia and Angola. So it seems no issue of any objection from UNO and Pakistan can easily deal with US pressure if its regional strategic partner is on its back and completion of this project will be a big step to further reduce American influence in Pakistan that is already on decline…. So pressure is more on America than Pakistan.
What Pakistan should be ready for?
Allegations of increasing insurgency into Afghanistan resulting into more Drone attacks in Pakistan for which Obama Administration is already determined. Same allegations are also expected from India with mounting tension on border. A Super Power can also target some areas of Balochistan saying hitting Taliban’s hideouts but actually creating hurdles to Gas Project. From other players there may be a new severe wave of terrorism in Balochistan and many more… This is the gray area of determination on this IP Project and of course nation should stand united to face all those consequences.