Jettisoning all professions of abiding friendship with Pakistan, the US has threatened it with sanctions, harking back to the days of the Pressler and Symington Amendments. Secretary of State Clinton told the House Appropriation Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations on Wednesday that Pakistan could face sanctions if it pressed ahead with the Iranian gas pipeline (IP) project.
The crucial question then is if Pakistan can withstand the American
coercion over this gas pipeline project, given so dismally is it
presently placed economically as well as politically domestically. Iran
has completed the infrastructure work on the pipeline on its side. But
Pakistan is still to embark on it, for which it needs at least $1.2
billion. And this colossal sum is hard for it to muster from its own
cash-strapped treasury. It will need foreign lenders to assist. But with
America working its formidable clout on international lending agencies,
it is inconceivable if that door is quite open to Pakistan for carrying
out this project. Already, lenders like the World Bank have flatly
declined funding of the project. Others, too, will certainly follow
Iran itself may not be much of a help in view of crippling US sanctions.
Although the Islamic Republic is as yet standing up steadfastly to
these sanctions, they have evidently begun biting into its flesh. For
the strangulating banking sanctions that the Obama administration has
unveiled, many world buyers of Iranian oil are being driven away to seek
new suppliers, mostly in the Middle East, particularly the Arab
monarchies. Even with concessionary rates, Iran may not be able to
retain its old customers nor seduce very many new clients for these
repressive American banking-sector sanctions. And barter deals may not
be able to make up for the enormous oil revenues that enable the Islamic
Republic raise enough money to run the state and develop it
economically for public weal.
Then there is the issue of laying down the pipeline on our side. It has
to pass through Balochistan, mostly the Baloch belt. And not just the
proxies from amongst the Baloch diaspora that American sleuths and
legislative panjandrums have set up are vowing never to let this
pipeline pass through Balochistan. But also the sardari scions housed in
privileged guest houses abroad publicly declare they will
ingratiatingly welcome if the Americans, for that matter any other
power, intervene on their side in separating Balochistan from Pakistan.
What price they will be ready to pay their benefactors, if they are
Americans, can easily be imagined.
In any case, if the Americans are using stick, they are also dangling
carrot to Pakistan to wean it away from the project. They speak of $one
billion in aid to help it tide over its energy crisis. But with it
bitter past experiences of such US pledges, what trust can Pakistan
place on this promise? They renege on those solemn pledges as quickly as
they make them, remorselessly. They say they have also already spent
$120 million on energy project in Pakistan. But our people know nothing
of it. They indeed want Pakistan to go for the
Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project,
which is still in process, but to leave the Iran-Pakistan joint venture,
which is a done deal.
But Pakistan’s need is urgent and pressing, which only its joint
pipeline venture with Iran can meet. And the Islamabad establishment
must tell the people how it wants to complete it, so that when the
American axe falls they help it to throw it back disdainfully.