Pakistan must realize now that it should reform its foreign policy by showing less dependence on the West. There must be a shift in our foreign policy towards the eastern blocs, which are emerging as potential economic alliances. Pakistan has many options of alignment available to it and being a sovereign state, it has a fundamental right to serve its national interests than foreign pragmatisms. Therefore, no country has the right to interfere into Pakistan’s internal affairs that are in the interests of the country and could mitigate economic sufferings of its people.
Despite US opposition, the
$ 7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline or the Peace Pipeline is going
ahead as planned. The Peace Pipeline initially had three players —
Pakistan, Iran, and India — but the latter decided to part from the
project in 2009 to avail the US nuclear deal. The Peace Pipeline will
help Pakistan end its growing energy crisis that has put its economic
wellbeing at stake. Pakistan’s economy is operating below par, which is
affecting productivity, causing declining exports, and widening the
balance of payments deficit. The Peace Pipeline is a major step forward
for Pakistan at a time when its textile and fertiliser sector are
showing a decline in output. With long and unexpected power outages, the
industrial sector is in peril, which is why the business community has
shown feelings of joy and relief over the project.
Iran will soon
complete constructing its end of the pipeline; however, the
construction of the 780 kilometre section of the pipeline on the
Pakistani side will cost Islamabad nearly $ 1.5 billion. Washington
never accepted the Peace Pipeline project and had its reservations over
the initiative. Even though Pakistan will overcome its energy needs with
Iran’s support, the latter’s nuclear ambition compelled the US to
oppose the project.
Pakistan is eager to complete the pipeline in
due time. However, the US doubts if Pakistan can finance the project.
Moreover, analysts believe that the US will impose sanctions on Pakistan
for defying Washington’s directives and siding with a country having a
nuclear plan that worries the west. In addition, Pakistan might face US
sanctions as mentioned in the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act, which allows the
US government to ban imports from any non-American company that makes an
investment of more than $ 20 million a year in the Iranian oil and
natural gas sector.
Even though the Peace Pipeline is expected to
provide benefits to Pakistan, it also has an underlining political
motive. Analysts view that Pakistan’s ruling party will use the gas
pipeline project to amass votes and create a positive public image in
the upcoming elections. People are wondering why the government went
ahead with the project with only a few days left remaining before the
dissolution of the assemblies. Even with a political motive in place,
the Peace Pipeline will benefit the state and the credit goes to the
president and his team for sealing the deal. Construction on the $ 1.5
billion pipeline is scheduled to be completed by December 2014. If the
project goes according to plan, Iran will supply 21.5 million cubic
metres of gas per day from its gas field in South Pars to Nawabshah.
This will solve Pakistan’s energy crisis and revive industry that fell
prey to power outages.
The US not only opposed the project but
also suggested Pakistan an alternative pipeline route from Turkmenistan
to Afghanistan, Pakistan and to India. Iran andPakistan never accepted
the replacement route. Furthermore, India’s presence in the project
would have kept both Pakistan and India on the verge of a war-like
situation, which would only destabilise the South Asian region. The
Peace Pipeline will begin transporting gas to Pakistan from December
2014. However, with the project already marred with delays, the final
deadline is yet to be decided.
Prior to the inauguration of the
Peace Pipeline project, the US State Department spokesperson, Victoria
Nuland said, “If this deal is finalised for a proposed Iran-Pakistan
pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran Sanctions Act.
We’ve made that absolutely clear to our Pakistani counterparts.”
US may impose sanctions on Pakistan for engaging in business-related
activities with Iran. According to the Congressional Research Report,
Iran is prohibited from selling technology or equipment that aids its
energy sector. In addition, Iran lacks the authorisation to conduct
business dealings that involve gas or fuels of any type with any
Even with the US closely monitoring the proceedings of
the Peace Pipeline, President Asif Ali Zardari is hopeful for the many
advantages the gas pipeline will bring to Pakistan and views it as a
win-win project for Iran and Pakistan. Addressing the gathering at the
inauguration ceremony, the president said, “The completion of the
pipeline is in the interest of peace, security, and progress of the two
countries. It will consolidate the economic, political and security ties
of the two nations.” Pakistan’s Foreign Office is repeatedly asserting
that Pakistan will not face any opposition from the US and believes that
the US will show more understanding on this issue. Only time will tell
if Washington comprehends the causes that led Pakistan to go ahead with
the Peace Pipeline.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad views
the Peace Pipeline as a symbol of resistance against western domination.
In the post-9/11 era, Pakistan became a major ally of the US in curbing
extremism. However, the Peace Pipeline could put Pakistan in a heap of
trouble. Pakistan cannot afford any aggressive diplomacy from the US at a
time when foreign aid is crucial for its survival.
By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar
The writer is a Karachi-based journalist who writes frequently on regional issues with focus on South Asia (Daily Times)
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